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Airbus has "high hopes" for struggling Kingfisher

Asked about recent financial difficulties at Airbus customer Kingfisher Airlines, sales chief John Leahy said the Indian airline was on an improved path.

india Updated: Dec 01, 2011 09:51 IST

Airbus expects to maintain A380 superjumbo deliveries at 25-27 aircraft in 2012, unchanged from this year, as production edges up to three planes a month, sales chief John Leahy said.

Airbus delivered 19 of the world's largest airliner, which has a list price of $375 million per plane, in the first 10 months of 2011.

"This year we're in that range, 25 to 27 (in terms of deliveries)," Leahy said on the sidelines of a conference organized by Aviation Week and Credit Suisse.

"Next year should be in the same range."

Airbus has sold 238 of the double-decker 525-seat jets and delivered 60 of them.

Sales have been dominated by Gulf and Asian airlines but Leahy, who is approaching the 10,000th aircraft order since taking charge of Airbus sales in 1994, was optimistic about the chances of ending a dearth of A380 sales in the United States.

"There are only two operators of the (Boeing) 747 in the US: United Airlines and Northwest-Delta. And yes, those guys are in my sights, particularly United Airlines," Leahy said.

"Everyone in Asia-Pacific has A380s now. If you want to compete in Asia-Pacific, at some point in time United is going to have to get on board with the A380."

Airbus and Boeing are battling over a potential order from United for 150-seat jets which people familiar with the talks have said could lead to a deal for as many as 180 planes.

Leahy suggested a decision was more likely early next year than late this year but referred questions to the airline. "If they want to sign tomorrow, I'm ready," he said.

Asked about recent financial difficulties at Airbus customer Kingfisher Airlines, Leahy said the Indian airline was on an improved path.

"Kingfisher is one of our good customers. I have the highest regard for Vijay (Mallya, the airline's chairman). He has had some issues with the airline. He's bringing in a new management team now which I think is very important. He needs to keep his airplanes flying," Leahy said.

"I think he now understands that he has to drop some money losing routes and concentrate on the money making routes. You can't be all things to all people. We have high hopes that he'll get things sorted out. He needs to be more focused and he's now doing that."

Cash-strapped Kingfisher, controlled by liquor entrepreneur Vijay Mallya, has struggled to raise funds and cancelled hundreds of flights in November.

It delayed A380 orders indefinitely and industry sources said it was set to cancel two remaining orders for the A340, a four-engined aircraft that Airbus has meanwhile decided to stop making.

"There are no orders that are at risk in the production cycle. There are orders several years out that are not in the production cycle," Leahy said without elaborating.

Kingfisher has orders for five A350-800s, a variant of the future mid-sized A350 that Airbus has not yet started producing.

Kingfisher, India's third largest airine by market share, said last week US-listed Dutch lessor AerCap Holdings NV would take back two of its aircraft in coming months as the two sides could not agree on extension terms.

First Published: Dec 01, 2011 09:29 IST