* Potential interest includes A320neo and A350, source says
* Etihad already seen poised to place major Boeing order
* Etihad declines comment, calls earlier report
* Focus on Gulf airlines ahead of Nov 17-21 Dubai Airshow
DUBAI/PARIS, Nov 11 Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways
is in talks to buy jets from Airbus even as it puts the
finishing touches to a reported deal with rival Boeing,
people familiar with the matter said.
At least one of the deals could be announced at next week's
Dubai Airshow, marking the first time the Abu Dhabi carrier has
played a signficant role at the showcase event hosted by its
closest rival, Emirates airline, the people said.
The number of plane orders being discussed and the possible
value was not immediately clear.
Etihad's potential interest includes the Airbus A320neo, a
fuel-saving version of the European planemaker's best-selling
medium-haul jet, as well as a modified or expanded order for its
long-haul A350 aircraft, one source said.
Etihad and Airbus both declined to comment.
Reuters reported last month Etihad was close to ordering
Boeing jets including 25 to 30 777X mini-jumbos, the new 777
version which is expected to be launched at next week's air
show, and a repeat order for about 30 787 Dreamliners
"I have made no comment on that at all; that is Reuters
speculating ... I think you should wait until we make an
announcement," Etihad's chief executive James Hogan told
Dubai-based Arabian Business magazine last week.
People tracking the twin-track negotiations said Etihad's
potential combined deals with Airbus and Boeing may cover the
aircraft needs of all of its equity partners, which include Air
Berlin, Virgin Australia and Aer Lingus
An announcement of Etihad's 777X order could pre-empt a
widely expected blockbuster deal for 100 or more 777X jets from
Emirates airline, which has said it may announce a
large Boeing order when it hosts the Nov. 17-21 air show.
Word of parallel talks between Etihad and Airbus came on the
eve of the 10th anniversary of the airline's first commercial
flight linking Abu Dhabi and Beirut on Nov 12, 2003.
Boeing and Airbus officials have set up camp in the Gulf as
they look to solidify plane orders with Etihad and other
fast-growing carriers including Emirates and Qatar Airways that
are buying more planes to expand their global reach.
Taking advantage of deep pockets and a geographically
strategic position between East and West, Gulf airlines are
expanding rapidly and diverting long-haul traffic from airlines
in Europe, the United States and parts of Asia.