AirAsia deal lifts Airbus but major blow for Rolls-Royce as it misses out on Typhoon order

December 20, 2013

Airbus has landed a significant pre-Christmas boost for its long-established A330 long-haul aircraft with a firm order for 25 from fast-growing low-cost carrier AirAsia X.

The £3.67bn contract, the largest one-off order for A330s order received by Airbus, is good news for the 5,000 workers at Airbus’s Filton engineering base and 1,700 at GKN’s manufacturing plant on the same site.

But across the road at Rolls-Royce’s aero-engine plant there is disappointment at a decision by the United Arab Emirates to pull out of talks to buy 60 Eurofighter Typhoons. Rolls-Royce assembles and tests the EJ200 engine for the fighter aircraft, which has so far failed to live up to earlier expectations for export sales.

Last month Prime Minister David Cameron visited the UAE to urge it to buy the twin-engine Typhoon and confidence was high that the £6bn order was in the bag. The Typhoon is manufactured by BAE Systems, mainly at plants in North West England although a number of West aerospace and defence firms are in the supply chain.

The Airbus deal with AirAsia X, the long-haul affiliate of the AirAsia group, and increases the carrier’s total firm orders for A330-300s to 51. These will be supplemented by another six leased from International Lease Finance Corporation.

AirAsia X will start taking delivery of its newly-ordered A330-300s in 2015 as it begins a major expansion of its network across the Asia-Pacific region. The order includes the latest extended range versions of the 300-seat A330-300, providing the airline with the ability to offer non-stop service to destinations in Europe or one-stop service to the US.

AirAsia X co-founder and director, Tan Sri’ Tony Fernandes, said: “This order stamps our firm intent to dominate the long-haul, low cost carrier space and marks the next phase in our development to be the undisputed global market leader.

“Our commitment would allow us to remain as the youngest wide body fleet age in the region at under five years throughout 2019, with corresponding competitive fuel efficiency, reliability and cabin comfort benefits.”

AirAsia X currently operates 16 A330-300s on services linking its Kuala Lumpur base to destinations in Asia, the Middle East and the Pacific. In addition to A330s, the carrier also has 10 of Airbus’s new A350-XWB aircraft on order.

The twin engine A330 is one of the most widely used widebody aircraft in service. Airbus has won more than 1,280 orders for the various versions of the aircraft. More than 1,000 A330s have already been delivered and the aircraft is currently flying with almost 100 operators worldwide.

Wings for the A330 were designed by Airbus engineers at Filton. Major metallic wing parts and assemblies such as leading and trailing edges, ribs and pylons are manufactured by GKN at Filton before being transported to the Airbus plant at Broughton, near Chester where the complete wings are assembled.

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