Airbus SE is poised to win a giant order from Turkish Airlines for about 350 aircraft, according to people familiar with the talks, underscoring Turkey’s commitment to build its flagship carrier into a global force to help drive the country’s $900 billion economy.
The agreement could be announced as soon as Monday, coinciding with the start of the 2023 edition of the Dubai Air Show, said the the people, who asked not to be identified discussing private negotiations. The discussions continue, and the final tally of firm and optional purchases might still change, the people cautioned.
The airline is considering the purchase of 75 A350-900 models and 15 of the larger A350-100 variant, according to the people. The Turkish flagship carrier is also discussing the acquisition of 250 A321neo single-aisle jets as well as a handful of A350 freighter models, they said.
The airline says it flies to the most countries in the world, using its hub in Istanbul as a major transfer airport. Turkish has said publicly for months that it wants to place a big order as it aims to almost double its fleet to about 800 aircraft in the next decade.
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An order of the magnitude now being discussed with Airbus would upend the dynamics of this year’s Dubai Air Show, where Emirates is traditionally the most prominent player and with the biggest deals on display. The Dubai flag carrier has also said publicly that it’s in the market for a large purchase that may exceed 100 aircraft, in what could make this year’s expo one of the busiest in the event’s history.
Airbus declined to comment on customer talks. The office of Erdogan, who is in the Saudi capital of Riyadh for a regional meeting, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment placed outside normal business hours. The Turkish state is the largest single shareholder in the airline.
The possible accord was reported earlier on Saturday by Turkish state-run news service Anadolu Agency, which didn’t say where it received the information. The news service published a photo showing Airbus Chief Executive Officer Guillaume Faury and his sales chief, Christian Scherer, shaking hands with Turkish Air Chairman Ahmet Bolat near a suspension bridge crossing the Bosphorus strait in Istanbul and collectively giving thumbs-up to celebrate an accord.
The order, if announced, would extend an unprecedented run of giant commitments by airlines rushing to get hold of increasingly scarce delivery slots. Airbus is largely sold out on its bestselling single-aisle model, and the company has said that demand for its more expensive widebody jets are also heating up.
Airbus is already close to a historic high with annual orders, and the Dubai Air Show may help the Toulouse, France-based manufacturer edge closer to that mark. That would highlight the aviation industry’s rebound from the pandemic, which grounded fleets around the world and led to massive losses at airlines that required some to seek state bailouts.
The company announced last week that it’s raising production rates of its A350 model to help satisfy demand. The A350 is powered by engines built by Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc, the UK manufacturer run by Turkish-British CEO Tufan Erginbilgic.