Airbus has received an order for 255 new aircraft from U.S. private equity firm Indigo Partners in the first significant deal for the company since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
Indigo, founded and run by investor Bill Franke, owns stakes in airlines including Frontier in the U.S., Hungary’s Wizz Air, Mexico’s Volaris, and Jetsmart in China and Argentina.
Speaking to CNBC at the Dubai Air Show, Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury said the deal for the A321 aircraft was a “very positive signal that we [are starting] to be on the front foot again.”
The value of the deal for the single-aisle passenger jets has not been revealed, but is believed to be worth billions of dollars.
“It’s an order that takes us into the second half of the decade — that’s very important for Airbus to have visibility on the long term, to plan production as we move from Covid-19 that was [a] constrain on demand, to a world … that is going to constrained by supply,” Faury told CNBC’s Dan Murphy.
The Dubai Air Show comes at a difficult time for aerospace companies after international air travel was decimated by the coronavirus pandemic. Countries around the world closed their borders to international travelers in response to the Covid-19 outbreak, with some — such as the U.S. — only just starting to open back up.
The industry was hit with a collapse in order numbers, but an expected recovery in air travel is seen boosting demand in the near future. Boeing said in September that it expects demand for new airplanes to swell in the next two decades.
As such, industry watchers will be awaiting any additional aircraft orders at the air show from both Airbus and Boeing.
“Covid has changed a lot of things, but climate change is also having a big impact on how the airlines are ordering moving forward,” Faury said.
There is plenty of focus on the sustainability of air travel at this year’s event as it comes hot on the heels of the high-profile COP26 climate summit. On Saturday, nearly 200 countries agreed on a deal to try to prevent the worst consequences of the climate crisis, following two weeks of talks in Glasgow, Scotland – but not everyone’s convinced it was a success.
Faury, however, insisted that COP26 was not a failure. “It was a very important step – it’s a milestone,” he said.
Airbus wants to “lead the decarbonization of aviation,” Faury told CNBC.
“At Airbus we strongly believe in hydrogen. That’s the best way to not put carbon in the air … It requires a lot of engineering, a lot of work — that’s what we’re doing now.”
In September, Airbus released details of three hydrogen-fueled concept planes which it hopes will enter service by the year 2035. The designs differ in size and style, but all are designed to be zero emission, using hydrogen as their primary source of power. Airbus is showcasing a “mockup” of the concept ZEROe aircraft at this year’s event.
“It’s not a reality today,” Faury said, but added that the 2035 target was a “credible scenario.”
— CNBC’s Anmar Frangoul contributed to this report