Italy's Air One to buy 30 Airbus A320s worth US$1.8 billion

Thursday, January 12th 2006, 9:50 am
By: News On 6

ROME (AP) _ Italy's Air One will buy 30 Airbus A320s under a US$1.8 billion (euro1.5 billion) deal for delivery by 2008 and plans to exercise an option to buy 10 more planes this year, the company said Thursday.

Air One, which has operated mainly in Italy, has a fleet of 30 leased Boeing 737s, and the Airbus deal will allow it to gradually replace those planes with the new Airbus jets.

The company is competing with flagship carrier Alitalia, which has long dominated the Italian market. In 2005 Air One carried 5.6 million passengers, and has carried 26 million people since the company was founded in 1995, officials said.

Air One President Carlo Toto said in a statement that the company decided on the deal with Airbus after a ``rigorous and careful evaluation.''

``The A320 will allow us to offer our customers the best comfort,'' Toto said, singling out increased room between seats.

Air One said the deal includes an option to order as many as 60 more Airbus aircraft _ besides the initial 30 _ by 2010.

That figure includes the 10 planes the company plans to exercise the option to buy in 2006, Air One Chief Operating Officer Lino Bergonzi said on the sidelines of a news conference with Airbus executives.

He said the US$1.8 billion (euro1.5 billion) figure cited for the 30 that Air One had already agreed to buy was the list price, but he declined to say whether that was the exact price the company would pay.

Airbus Chief Executive Gustav Humbert said in a statement that the ``operating efficiency and the advanced technology that characterizes the A320 will contribute in the near future to the growth of Air One even on markets that are not now covered.''

Air One runs frequent flights along the shuttle route between Rome and Milan. The company also flies between mainland Italy and the islands of Sicily and Sardinia. The airline has a code-sharing arrangement with Lufthansa.

Airbus is 80 percent owned by the Franco-German European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co.; Britain's BAE Systems PLC owns the rest.