BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany’s largest airline, Lufthansa (LHAG.DE), will be flying two more Airbus EAD.PA A380 superjumbos on long-haul routes sooner than expected after snapping them up as part of an order worth about 1 billion euros at list prices.
The airline, already Europe’s largest customer for the 526-seater A380, was offered the additional planes at short notice, a spokesman said on Thursday.
Lufthansa has already ordered 15 A380s, eight of which have been delivered. It was due to take delivery of the next five in 2015, but the two in Thursday’s order are set to be delivered in 2014, the spokesman said.
The order includes one Airbus A330-300, which will be used on long-haul routes, four Airbus A320s and five smaller Embraer (EMBR3.SA) 195s for its regional fleet, with the planes to be delivered in stages from 2012.
The group will fund the planes through its own cash and external sources, such as leasing or a sale and leaseback.
Its latest order, in the face of growing warnings about the European economy, underlines forecasts that aircraft demand will remain resilient thanks to emerging market growth and the urgent drive by many airlines for fuel savings.
“It is the latest step in our ongoing strategy of deploying a modern fleet in terms of fuel efficiency, operating costs, noise and emissions,” Lufthansa said in Thursday’s statement.
Airbus has sold 238 of the world’s largest airliner, which entered service in December 2007 following a two-year delay.
Lufthansa’s decision is the first repeat order for the A380 by a legacy carrier since Air France (AIRF.PA) added two planes in 2007, bringing its total to 12.
Demand for the aircraft has been centred on the Gulf, whose rising carriers aim to draw traffic from European operators and make up almost half the order book. Emirates Airline EMIRA.UL has ordered 90 of the planes, for example.
Sales of the world’s largest airliner have been slower than its European designers first hoped, as many airlines focused on the market for smaller and lighter long-range jets such as the A350 and the Boeing (BA.N) 787 Dreamliner, which was delivered to its first customer this week.
That aircraft was also hit by severe production delays.
Lufthansa, whose fleet decisions are widely seen as influential, is separately assessing the Boeing 787 and the A350, according to aviation industry sources.
The spokesman said Thursday’s order did not affect decisions on other orders and that the group was under no time pressure to decide on the A350 or the 787.
Shares in Lufthansa, which were battered by a profit warning this month, closed up 2.5 percent at 10.11 euros.
EADS shares closed up 1.5 percent in Paris, while Embraer shares were up 2.2 percent at 1602 GMT.
Reporting by Victoria Bryan; additional reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by David Hulmes