x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Airbus aims to boost sales in Mena

Civil unrest in north Africa could dampen several of Airbus sales campaigns as the manufacturer hopes to sell up to 80 aircraft in the region this year.

Two Etihad pilots perform pre-flight checks before flying an Etihad Airbus A330 from Toulouse, France, to Abu Dhabi. Sammy Dallal / The National
Two Etihad pilots perform pre-flight checks before flying an Etihad Airbus A330 from Toulouse, France, to Abu Dhabi. Sammy Dallal / The National

Airbus hopes to sell up to 80 aircraft in the region this year, a rise of more than 50 per cent from last year.

But civil unrest in north Africa could upend several of its sales campaigns. The aircraft maker is battling its rival Boeing for deals in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and north African nations including Egypt, Algeria and Morocco, said Habib Fekih, the president of Airbus Middle East.

Its sales should receive a boost after it recently introduced its A320 single-aisle aircraft with a new engine option, the NEO, that offers up to 15 per cent higher fuel efficiency, Mr Fekih said.

Carriers such as Qatar Airways, Saudi Arabian Airlines and Egyptair are evaluating a number of narrow-bodied aircraft to add short-haul routes and wide-bodied planes for long-haul flights.

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This follows a period when many carriers in the region postponed their fleet acquisition plans during the global downturn as air travel was hit.

"In the Middle East there is now a shift taking place. There were a lot of carriers who went cold," Mr Fekih said. "This year, thanks to the NEO and to existing campaigns, we can expect to sell a bit more aircraft."

Airbus, a subsidiary of EADS based in France, holds a slight advantage over Boeing in the Mena region.

igale@thenational.ae