| Making a pitch
Mumbai, June 22: With fat orders from the Paris air show under its wing, Airbus today launched a charm offensive on Air-India (A-I) to win orders for its giant A380 planes.
The airline feels the national carrier requires at least 20 of the giant planes that soared into the skies this spring and are slated to fly passengers from next year.
The Airbus serenade aims to win over A-I, which recently picked Boeing planes for its long-haul services in a $7-billion deal that dwarfs all airline orders of the past.
Upset at having lost the lucrative transaction, the European plane-maker had sought a probe by the central vigilance commissioner into the decision. Today, it appeared ready to move on, its confidence boosted by the way it soared above rival Boeing at the Paris show.
“It was a view we took. It is in the past,” said Nigel Harwood, Airbus’ vice-president (sales) said. Asked how he would deal with civil aviation ministry officials who have vowed not to consider Airbus in all future Air-India orders, Harwood said: “That’s what we’ll work on in the days and months ahead. We’ll treat it as a challenge.”
Kiran Rao, senior vice-president at Airbus, dismissed talk that A-380s require monster airstrips. “It requires less distance for landing and take off than Boeing 747. What it does need is more space for turning and parking, besides higher capacity air-terminals,” he added.
Kingfisher Airlines has placed orders for five A380s. Vijay Mallya’s airline expects to fly abroad in five years, by which time the planes will start being delivered. Local airlines must fly at least five years at home to be able to seek permission for touching down overseas.
“You know very well that A-380s will be available only by 2009. So our aircraft delivery will match the timeframe set in the government policy,” Mallya said this month at the Paris event, where Airbus outsold Boeing by 2:1.
Another area that is exciting the European aviation major is the way the low-cost airlines got off to a flying start. The new carriers have started with a 90-per cent seat occupancy, much higher than the international norm of 40 per cent.
Airbus officials say they are persuading Kingfisher and Air Deccan to upgrade part of their pending orders from A320s to A321, which can carry 40 more passengers.