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Emirates operates 100 A380 double-decker aircraft

Airbus sells 430 planes to Indigo for $49.5-B

Dubai, United Arab Emirates—Airbus signed a $49.5-billion deal to sell 430 airplanes to the Phoenix-based private equity firm that owns Frontier Airlines, striking the European aerospace company’s biggest deal ever at the Dubai Air Show.

The deal with Indigo Partners will see 273 A320 NEOs and 157 A321 NEOs split up among Denver-based Frontier, JetSMART of Chile, Volaris of Mexico and Wizz Air of Hungary, all ultra-low-cost airlines associated with Indigo.

The surprise announcement comes after Airbus suffered the embarrassment of believing it had struck a major deal with the state-owned carrier Emirates to sell its A380 jet, only to see Boeing sit on the podium with the airline and sign a $15.1-billion deal. “Just to clarify: This is not an A380 news conference,” joked John Leahy, Airbus’s sales chief, as the start of the announcement.

A320 NEOs list for $108.4 million apiece and A321 NEOs at $127 million. Airlines and manufacturers negotiate lower prices for big deals, something Indigo’s managing partner Bill Franke was quick to stress afterward speaking to journalists.

“Here’s hoping,” he said. “Their objective is to sell aircraft at the best possible price and our objective is to buy aircraft at the best possible price. I’ve known Mr. Leahy for 25 years. Sometimes he wins, sometimes I win.”

The only major deal announced at the Dubai Air Show came when Emirates purchased 40 Boeing 787-10 Dreamliners in a $15.1-billion deal.

Airbus has pinned hopes of continuing production of its A380 jet on Emirates, the world’s largest operator of the aircraft. Reports circulated before the air show that a major A380 sale would be coming.

Airbus employees even filled a news conference, expecting the A380 sale, instead to find state-owned Emirates making the deal with Boeing in front of Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

Emirates now relies solely on the Airbus 380 and the Boeing 777 for its flights, making it the largest operator of both. It has 165 Boeing 777s in its fleet today and took possession of its 100th A380 earlier this month.

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