Air India may buy A380 planes: Airbus CEO

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New Delhi, Oct 30: European plane maker Airbus is in talks with Air India (AI) for selling 10 to 12 A380s, its chief executive officer Tom Enders said today.

So far, Kingfisher Airlines has been the only Indian customer for A380, the world's largest aircraft that can seat upto 850 people in twin-deck configuration.

''We feel there is a need for A380s in the Indian market,'' said Mr Enders.

''Global air traffic is expected to triple in the next 20 years.

With a major portion of that growth coming from India, it makes sense for national carriers such as AI to purchase such long-haul aircraft.'' Mr Enders is accompanying German chancellor Angela Merkel who is leading a 30-member business delegation from the European Union during her three-day state visit.

He said Airbus will also ramp up its engineering centre in Bangalore as there is a possibility of designing and manufacturing other plane spare parts in India.

An AI official confirmed that the airline is evaluating A380 for long-haul routes and a decision is likely in the next three to four months. If final orders are placed by 2008-end, deliveries will begin by 2011-12. The aircraft manufacturer puts the list price of an Airbus A380 at 319 million dollars apiece. The first A380 flew from Singapore's Changi Airport to Sydney some days ago after an 18-month delay.

But despite the delay, the Toulouse-based manufacturer is very confident that the aircraft will find buyers in the coming few months.

AI's current fleet consists of a large number of Boeing aircraft, including the ageing Boeing 747-200s and 747-400s that the A380 might replace. Airbus' chief operating officer (customers) John Leahy said: ''If an airline wants to be competitive and wishes to move into 21st century, it must move with us. AI could fly the aircraft to high-growth hubs such as London and New York.'' AI and its low-cost subsidiary AI Express placed orders for 68 short-, medium- and long-haul aircraft with Boeing in 2005, valued at over 11 billion dollars.

UNI

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