The memorandum of understanding with lessor Doric is the largest single deal that Toulouse, France-based Airbus has won for the biggest passenger plane after orders from Dubai-based Emirates, the No. 1 A380 operator, most recently in 2010.
Doric's commitment propels Airbus toward a target of 25 A380 orders this year after the company failed to win a single contract in the first five months. The lessor has been a leading advocate of the double-decker, which has a list price of $403.9 million, arguing that airlines will add more as its efficiencies become apparent and early glitches are ironed out.
"Airbus has worked through some of the engine, wing and range challenges and if you're operating at a major hub the A380 is an attractive option, especially in terms of seat costs," said Richard Bergmann, an El Segundo, Calif.-based partner at aviation consultants Accenture. "And passengers love it."
In the first order activity of the Paris expo, International Lease Finance Corp. exercised options to buy 50 Airbus A320neo planes, taking its backlog for the type to 150. The re-engined narrow-body dominated the last Paris show in 2011, which came half a year after the model was introduced.
GE 787 boost
Boeing Co.'s highlight on the first morning of the show was an order from General Electric Co.'s GE Capital Aviation Services leasing division for 10 of the largest Boeing Co. 787 Dreamliners valued at about $2.9 billion -- a boost for the U.S. planemaker's decision to stretch the jet to add seats.
Boeing later announced a deal with Qatar Airways Ltd. for nine 777-300ER wide-body planes worth as much as $2.8 billion, comprising two firm orders that were already on the Chicago-based company's books, plus seven commitments.
Tokyo-based Skymark Airlines said it has chosen the Boeing 737 MAX to fulfill its future single-aisle needs, making it the first Japanese first airline to do so.
Deutsche Lufthansa AG also firmed up an earlier-announced order for 100 Airbus narrow-bodies, comprising 70 A320neo and A321neo models and 30 of the current series.
At Doric, Chief Executive Officer Mark Lapidus said he sees value in establishing a forward-order portfolio of A380s that can be marketed to new and existing customers worldwide. Founded in 2005, it had 35 aircraft and assets of $7 billion under management as of May 2013, based on original costs.
The company is the only lessor to buy the model after International Lease Finance Corp. dropped plans for a purchase, with its unpopularity stemming in part from a fashion for cabin customizations that make it expensive to refit for later users.
Doric has previously financed A380s for Emirates and Singapore Airlines Ltd., first to fly the plane in 2007.
There were 103 of the 525-seat aircraft in service through May, with Emirates operating 33, and the lessor has said it sees demand growing as new operators including British Airways, which gets its first superjumbo on July 4, gain in familiarity. The BA plane is on display an appearance at the Paris expo.
Airbus has booked 262 firm A380 orders, with Deutsche Lufthansa AG announcing on March 14 it would raise its total commitments to 19 planes. The European manufacturer still has open production slots in 2015. John Leahy, its chief salesman, said he's confident he'll fill the vacancies.
Emirates President Tim Clark has said he plans to add 30 more A380s beyond 90 on order. Other airlines have said they are considering the model for their fleets, including PT Garuda Indonesia and Turkish Airlines, which is building a hub to challenge Persian Gulf carriers.