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Airbus pins hope on French PM visit for Indian Airlines deal

New Delhi, Feb. 4: French passenger-aircraft maker Airbus says it expects the government to give the “go-ahead” to state-run Indian Airlines for the purchase of 43 A320 aircraft from the firm.

“We are waiting for the government approval, which will hopefully come through soon,” said David Velupillai, spokesman for Airbus, an 80:20 joint venture between EADS and BAE Systems.

French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, who will arrive here this week, is expected to persuade Indian officials to help Airbus get the approval for the deal worth around Rs 1,000 crore.

In March, the Indian Airlines board selected Airbus over the US-based Boeing for the order.

Airbus officials said they expect the demand for jets in the country to be around 222 units by 2019, worth $17.5 billion. All but 14 of the country’s current fleet of 112 aircraft need to be replaced by 2019, they said.

“Our study shows both Air-India and Indian Airlines will need another 124 jets to meet the higher traffic flow. We are hopeful of getting at least 50 per cent of this order. Sixty per cent of these orders would comprise 150-seater aircraft while a large number would constitute 250-seater planes,” Velupillai said.

According to Velupillai, the firm expects long distance carrier Air-India to purchase around 30 of the 550-seater double-deck A-380 aircraft, the largest in the world. A-380 was launched in December 2000 and would be ready for operation by 2006.

“We are also in discussion with the country’s private airlines for the sale of A320s, Airbus Corporate Jetliners to the government and the medium-capacity-long-range (MCLR) A330/340s to Air-India,” Velupillai said.

“The A340s will be attractive to Air-India because it can fly non-stop to the United States,” he said.

Last month, Air-India’s board decided to open financial bids for 17 long-range jets of more than 250-passenger seats, which are planned to be acquired over the next five years. Airbus faces a strong challenge from Boeing’s 777-200s.

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