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JetBlue orders 10 planes from Airbus for $500 million

SHARE JetBlue orders 10 planes from Airbus for $500 million

TOULOUSE, France — Airbus SAS said it won an order for 10 A320 planes worth about $500 million from JetBlue Airways Corp., a New York-based low-fare airline, giving the European planemaker its first order in a year that's expected to bring fewer contracts than 2001.

JetBlue, an all-Airbus customer, has now placed orders for a total 74 of A320s, including the 10 new ones, each with seating for 162 passengers, Airbus said in a faxed statement. The airline currently has 22 planes and flies to 18 U.S. cities.

Airbus is anticipating a decline of as much as 60 percent in orders this year for it and rival Boeing Co., though the company is benefiting from JetBlue's growth in traffic and policy of flying only Airbus jets.

"Despite the airline industry's current climate, JetBlue is moving forward with its original controlled growth business plan," said JetBlue chief executive officer and Utah native David Neeleman in a statement.

Neeleman, 42, created JetBlue in 1999 with $130 million from investors including Soros Private Equity Partners, Weston Presidio and Chase Capital Partners. A second round of private financing raised another $30 million.

The planes will be equipped with V2500 engines built by IAE International Aero Engines AG. IAE valued the order at $145 million, said JetBlue in a statement. IAE is a venture of United Technologies Corp.'s Pratt & Whitney, Rolls-Royce Plc, Japan's Aero Engines Corporation and MTU, a unit of DaimlerChrysler AG.

Closely held JetBlue, which doesn't have to provide financial information to the public, was about an hour from filing an application with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for an initial public stock offering when the Sept. 11 hijackings took place. The company has delayed the offering, which is to be managed by Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co.

Air travel in the U.S. fell about 20 percent in November compared with a year ago, according to the Air Transport Association, which represents the airlines. Passenger volume at the nation's largest low-fare carrier, Southwest Airlines Co., fell 1 percent.