At last, Airbus is having a really good day in Paris, buoyed by the world's largest aircraft leasing company and by an upstart Indian airline...

Share story

At last, Airbus is having a really good day in Paris, buoyed by the world’s largest aircraft leasing company and by an upstart Indian airline with global ambitions.

On the third day of the Paris Air Show at Le Bourget, Airbus announced very significant orders for its superjumbo A380 and for its proposed new plane, the A350.

Kingfisher Airlines of India, a new carrier that has been flying for only five weeks, placed a huge order worth $3 billion for five A330s, five A350s and five A380s. The superjumbo and the new widebody model are both destined for non-stop flights between the U.S. and India.

In addition, General Electric’s Commercial Aviation Services unit (GECAS) has ordered the A350, the rival airplane to the Boeing 787.

GECAS announced a firm order for 10 A350s. GECAS president Henry Hubschman said in a statement that “strong indications of interest from five customers for more than 100 Airbus A350s so far show solid customer demand for this program.”

That endorsement, however, is not as disinterested as the one given yesterday by rival leasing company ILFC to the 787. GE is the only engine maker so far for the A350, giving GECAS’s parent a strong incentive to make sure the program succeeds.

Still, the A350 looks just a little more solid with today’s two orders. Its tally now stands at 117 commitments.

The Kingfisher order was announced in a press conference by Airbus chief executive Noel Forgeard and Vijay Mallya, chairman of the Kingfisher parent company, United Breweries.

Airbus sales chief introduced Mallya as the “Richard Branson” of India, a reference to the flamboyant British billionaire entrepreneur.

Mallya looked the part. With long, wavy, graying hair, he was elegantly dressed in a dark suit with bright yellow tie and breast-pocket handkerchief. He wore large diamond ear-rings in each ear, a huge gold watch and diamond ring on his finger.

He described the deal as a matter of great national pride, founded upon the explosive growth of the Indian economy.

Mallya said that India will add 100 million “new consuming-class customers” by 2010.

“it should be a complete no-brainer to fill an A380 in five years,” he said.

Kingfisher will configure the A380 for 496 passengers.

Mallya said that United Breweries has pitched its Kingfisher brand in India as a “lifestyle icon, a lifestyle brand” that started as a beer but now encompasses fashion, music and food. Hence the constant comparison, which Mallya himself noted, between Kingfisher and Virgin and between himself and Branson.