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Airbus Lands First British Airways Deal

<i> From Bloomberg News</i>

British Airways will order 59 Airbus Industrie jetliners and take options for 200 more, breaking its longtime record as a Boeing-only customer, sources familiar with the decision said Monday.

The order for A320-family short-range jets, worth as much as $11 billion if all options are exercised, would mark one of the European plane maker’s biggest victories against Boeing Co., the world’s biggest aircraft maker. An announcement could come as early as today.

For Boeing, the loss of British Airways caps one of the worst 12 months in its history as it struggles with production bottlenecks that helped push it to a full-year loss. Though it usually holds two-thirds or more of the world’s aircraft market, the Seattle-based firm trailed Airbus in first-half orders.

British Airways, Europe’s largest airline, has never before ordered from Airbus, even though the plane maker British Aerospace is among the European consortium’s four partners.

While Airbus will win the order for short-haul planes, British Airways is widely expected to stick with Boeing for an order of wide-body, long-haul planes, which can be used for transoceanic flights.

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On Aug. 10, the airline’s Chief Executive Bob Ayling indicated that the carrier is likely to buy more Boeing 777 jetliners.

“We are looking at our general pattern of investments and we want to buy the right aircraft for the future,” Ayling said. “As markets deregulate, the 777 is an increasingly attractive aircraft.”

British Air operates the largest fleet in Europe, with about 350 aircraft in service.

Boeing shares fell 69 cents to close at $35.69 Monday on the New York Stock Exchange.


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