Hong Kong Airlines 'in talks' on Airbus deal

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 June, 2011, 12:00am


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An on-off order by Hong Kong Airlines for the double-deck Airbus A380 could be back on again if the carrier goes ahead with plans to sign a letter of intent at the Paris air show next week.

Hong Kong Airlines, controlled by the mainland's HNA Group, was expected to sign a preliminary deal with European aircraft manufacturer Airbus for the mega jumbo at the Asian Aerospace show in Hong Kong in March. But the pact failed to materialise, and instead US rival Boeing signed a preliminary agreement with HNA on behalf of Hong Kong Airlines for 32 Boeing 787-900 Dreamliners and six Boeing 777 freighters.

Hong Kong Airlines spokeswoman Eva Chan said a deal was now being negotiated with Airbus and was on course to be signed during the Paris show, from June 20 to 26. 'Our top-level executives are going over the terms with Airbus. We have not yet decided on the details of the order,' she told Agence France-Presse.

Aviation insiders said a minimum order for four aircraft was required to make it financially and operationally viable for an airline to fly the plane, although the preferred option was for five to six of them. This was because of the constraints on using the large aircraft on long-haul routes such as Hong Kong to London or across the Pacific Ocean.

One aviation source said of a possible announcement in Paris: 'Airbus would not give Hong Kong Airlines the oxygen of free publicity if it was not a real deal involving some money on the table.'

The list price of an Airbus A380-800 is around US$375.3 million depending on the final specifications, following an 8.4 per cent increase in January. The aircraft can carry 853 passengers in an all-economy layout, although Korean Air, which is due to start using the A380 on services from Seoul to Tokyo and Hong Kong next Friday, will carry up to 407 passengers in three classes.