FARNBOROUGH, England (AFP) — With record oil prices crippling airlines worldwide, Canadian planemaker Bombardier said here Sunday it planned to launch its eco-friendly CSeries single-aisle passenger jet in 2013.
German carrier Lufthansa has signed a letter saying it was interested in buying 30 CSeries jets and possibly up to 60, Bombardier said in a statement.
Launch customer Lufthansa could be followed by other airlines after Bombardier said it had received "significant interest" worldwide regarding the new plane.
"The CSeries family offers the greenest single-aisle aircraft in its class," said Gary Scott, president of Bombardier Commercial Aircraft.
"These game-changing aircraft emit up to 20 percent less CO2 (carbon dioxide)... fly four times quieter, and deliver dramatic energy savings," he added in the statement.
The approximate list price of each CSeries aircraft, which will seat between 110 and 130 passengers, is 46.7 million US dollars (29.4 million euros). Bombardier made its announcement Sunday, a day before the start of the week-long Farnborough International Air Show outside London.
The event is a traditional battle ground between Airbus and Boeing for plane orders.
Oil-producing Gulf states were expected to make large orders for commercial planes at the biennial event thanks to extra revenue generated from soaring crude prices, which Friday struck record heights above 147 dollars a barrel.
Soaring oil prices are an "opportunity", which will speed up orders for new, more fuel-efficient aircraft, the chief executive of US aircraft giant Boeing, James McNerney, said in an interview published Sunday.
"The high price of oil is speeding up the process of the oldest, least efficient planes being taken out of service because they are no longer profitable," he told the weekly Journal du Dimanche.
New, fuel-efficient planes also include the Airbus A380 superjumbo and A350, as well as Boeing's Dreamliner.
Nico Buchholz, Senior Vice President, Corporate Fleet, Lufthansa, said Sunday that Bombardier's CSeries would meet the German airline's "stringent requirements for sustainable fleet development, both in terms of environmental and commercial requirements, and flexibility for the future."
Etihad Airways, the national carrier of the United Arab Emirates, has said it is likely to announce orders of between 50 and 100 aircraft at Farnborough, but did not reveal which ones.
But analysts warn that publicly owned airlines in countries suffering from inflation, the credit crunch and slowing or negative economic growth, may find it difficult to afford big deals at the air show.
In the first six months of this year alone, 25 airlines went bust or ceased operating and more could fold as fuel prices continued to rise, a spokesman for aviation industry association IATA said last week.
Casualties included airlines big and small from all regions, such as Cameroon Airlines, Denver-based Frontier Airlines and British-based business class airline Silverjet.
Over the weekend, Virgin boss Richard Branson told The Times newspaper there would be "some spectacular casualties" in the airline industry over the next year.
"One of the big American carriers will almost definitely go," he said.
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