Singapore Air Plans to Buy More Aircraft, Airbus’s Leahy Says

Singapore Airlines Ltd., Southeast Asia’s biggest carrier, plans to buy more aircraft, Airbus SAS said, as the region’s economic growth spurs air travel demand.

Airbus will suggest its A350 model to Singapore Air, John Leahy, the planemaker’s chief operating officer, said in an interview in Singapore today.

“We’re in discussions with them,” Leahy said. “They are also looking at other aircraft. They issued a request for proposal on that to Airbus, to Boeing, to engine manufacturers. Anything else, I can’t comment.”

Singapore Air, the first carrier to fly the Airbus A380, in October agreed to order five more of the superjumbos and 20 A350-900s as it adds fuel-efficient planes amid competition from Gulf airlines. Asia-Pacific will lead the demand for new aircraft as economic growth helps boost the number of middle class population by almost five-times in 20 years, Leahy said.

“We discuss fleet requirements with manufacturers on a regular basis, in line with our longstanding policy to maintain a young and modern fleet,” said Nicholas Ionides, a spokesman for the carrier. He declined to elaborate, saying discussions are confidential.

The A350 is Airbus’s biggest twin-engine model, with seating for about 314 passengers on the A350-900 variant, which has a list price of $287.7 million. The larger A350-1000 can hold 350 passengers and has a published price of $332.1 million. Buyers typically get a discount from list prices.

Maiden Flight

The A350 is set for its maiden flight in the middle of this year. The aircraft’s small and mid-sized variants compete with the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, while the large model is positioned against the popular 777.

Airbus would acquire Singapore Air’s five A340-500s as part of the October order. These planes will leave the carrier’s fleet in the fourth quarter of this year, forcing the end of non-stop services to Los Angeles as well as Newark, the world’s longest commercial flight.

The carrier transferred its 20 on-order Boeing 787s, due to start arriving in 2014, to low-cost arm Scoot from the main Singapore Air unit. Scoot began services using 777s in June. Singapore Air’s regional unit SilkAir separately signed a provisional agreement for 54 Boeing 737 planes in August.

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