Singapore Air Orders 20 Airbus Planes

Becomes first carrier to commit to new A350 XWB plane.

LONDON (AP) - Singapore Airlines Ltd. ordered 20 new Airbus A350 XWB planes on Friday, making it the first carrier to commit to the revamped aircraft unveiled by the European manufacturer earlier this week.

The Asian carrier also said it would exercise its options to pick up nine more of Airbus' double-decker A380s - the model that led to a high-level management shakeup at Airbus and its parent company European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co. last month when the company warned of delivery delays.

The contract for all 29 planes is worth around $7.5 billion, the Asian carrier said.

Airbus unveiled a $10 billion revamp of the A350 jet at the Farnborough International Airshow on Monday in response to airline criticism of the original design.

The new A350XWB - for ''extra-wide body'' - seeks to beat rival Boeing Co.'s flagship Dreamliner at its own game. It offers bigger windows, a roomier cabin, even greater fuel efficiency and a larger stretch version.

''The order for more A380s represents an enormous vote of confidence in the program, whilst the selection of the all new A350 XWB reasserts Airbus' determination to compete vigorously in the twin engine, wide-body market,'' said Airbus Chief Executive Officer Christian Streiff.

The deal is a boost for Airbus and EADS after last month's warning of delays in deliveries of the A380 superjumbo largely due to problems with electrical wiring.

The shock announcement led to the departure of Airbus Chief Executive Gustav Humbert and EADS co-CEO Noel Forgeard and a sharp drop in EADS shares.

There has been speculation airlines would cancel orders of the A380 after the revelations, but Singapore Airlines said that Airbus had demonstrated to its satisfaction that the engineering design of the delayed A380 superjumbo is ''sound.''

''It has performed well in flight and certification tests, and the delays in its delivery have been caused more by production, rather than technical, issues,'' it said.

Singapore Airlines already has 10 A380s on order and the nine additional aircraft it plans to buy are part of the options the carrier has for 15 more.

It will be the first airline to take delivery of the plane later this year. Under a revised delivery schedule, the 10 A380s it currently has on order will now be delivered between the end of 2006 and mid-2008.

Deliveries for the nine additional A380s will start in late 2008 and run through to 2010.

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