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updated: 6/20/2013 7:45 AM

Airbus signs 59 orders for new A350, Boeing finalizes deal

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  • Visitors walk by a Russian Antonov 58, in the background, during the 50th Paris Air Show at Le Bourget airport, north of Paris, Wednesday, June 19, 2013.

      Visitors walk by a Russian Antonov 58, in the background, during the 50th Paris Air Show at Le Bourget airport, north of Paris, Wednesday, June 19, 2013.

 
Associated Press

LE BOURGET, France -- Airbus raked in orders Wednesday for its new A350, announcing 59 sales of the wide-body jet that flew for the first time last week.

Singapore Airlines ordered 30 A350-900s, with an option to buy another 20 of the 900s or the larger 1000 model. The airline had already ordered 20 of the A350.

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Air France-KLM also put in an order for 25 A350 jets, saying the plane will be central to its plan to expand long-haul flights after years of struggling against discount carriers in Europe.

Airbus also announced that SriLankan Airlines, the country's national carrier, would buy four A350s and six slightly smaller A330 jets.

Wednesday's announcements at the Paris Air Show represent a vote of confidence in the A350, which Airbus is hoping will help it catch up to Boeing's popular 787 and 777 in the lucrative field of long-haul wide-body jets. The A350, which typically seats 314 passengers, has a list price of $287.7 million; the A330, which doesn't fly as far as the A350, has a list price of $239.4 million.

The A350 makes extensive use of lightweight carbon fiber, at a time when fuel costs are a major concern. Potential customers at the air show haven't been able to see the plane at Le Bourget -- the plane is not yet cleared for flight there. First deliveries of the plane are expected in mid-2014.

The SriLankan Airlines' deal is worth around $2.8 billion at list prices, while Singapore Airline's firm order is worth $8.6 billion at list prices.

The Air France deal is worth around $7.2 billion at list prices but customers can negotiate steep discounts. It's a major investment for the airline, which has posted operating losses over the past couple of years.

The purchase fits in with Air France-KLMs hope to shift away from the cutthroat short-haul market. "This year is a pivotal year for their recovery plan," said Robin Byde, an analyst with Cantor Fitzgerald Europe.

Discount carriers, who have successfully competed in both the United States and Europe against more established airlines, also made their mark at the air show.

Boeing Co. on Wednesday finalized an order for 175 of its popular short-haul 737s with Irish low-cost airline Ryanair. The purchase would be valued at $15.6 billion at list prices, but Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary has said he's getting a steep discount -- although less than the 53 percent markdown on a prior order.

Boeing also announced orders for a total of 33 of its new generation 737-MAX 8 jets, extending the popularity of the fuel-efficient aircraft. The 737-MAX 8 planes have a list price of $100.5 million.

Aircraft leasing company CIT Aerospace, which placed an order for 30 on Wednesday, is responsible for a fleet of 350 aircraft, including 128 Boeing jets, according to the company. Travel Service, an airline based in Eastern Europe, ordered three.

Smaller jet purchases have made up the bulk of the orders this year as airlines renew their fleets or expand into new markets, notably in Asia and Latin America.

The 737 carries between 150 and 200 passengers and is Boeing's most popular model. First deliveries of the MAX are expected in 2017.

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