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Airbus ups A330 output, revokes freighter order

PARIS (Reuters) - European planemaker Airbus confirmed plans on Thursday for a 25 percent increase in production of its A330 long-range aircraft as it cashes in on delays to the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

An Airbus employee works in the cockpit section of an A330 Airbus airplane at the Airbus facility in Montoir-de-Bretagne near Saint-Nazaire January 20, 2011. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe/Files

The lightweight carbon-composite Dreamliner aims to beat the 20-year-old Airbus jet, which carries 253 to 295 people, in both technology and fuel eficiency. But sales of the A330 have rebounded sharply as the 787 fell three years behind schedule.

Airbus said it would increase production of the twinjet A330 family, which also includes the tail end of the largely sidelined four-engined A340, from eight planes a month now to nine a month in early 2012 and ten in second-quarter 2013.

Airbus officials had said they were considering the production increase at New Year press briefings in January.

Airbus also sought to draw a line under a dispute with the first customer for a freighter version of the A330 by revoking an order for 12 planes from India’s Flyington Freighters.

The EADS planemaking unit did not publicly give a reason but people familiar with the dispute on both sides have said Flyington and Airbus have quarreled over the payment of deposits against the $1.2 billion order and other matters.

Flyington was due to have taken the first delivery of an A330 last year but Airbus substituted Etihad Airways as the inaugural customer at the Farnborough air show last year.

Officials with Flyington Freighters were not immediately available for comment.

Airbus said it had received 32 plane orders in January, or a net total of 20 orders after the Flyington cancellation.

Airbus delivered 33 planes in January.

Airbus plans to offer a military version of the A330 in a competition worth up to $50 billion to supply aerial refueling tankers to the United States. If it wins, it will start assembling the freighter version alongside A330 tankers in Mobile, Alabama. Boeing is offering a version of its 767 airliner, which reached its 1,000th delivery this week.

Reporting by James Regan, Tim Hepher