JAL Picks Airbus A350 Over Boeing Dreamliner
Japan Airlines has signed its first-ever purchase from Airbus, in a blow to Boeing as the Dreamliner saga continues to affect the American firm.
JAL announced a decision to buy 31 A350 planes, with a catalogue value of £5.9bn.
The deal signed in Tokyo on Monday also includes an option for JAL to buy 25 more Airbus jets.
JAL's fleet has historically been dominated by Boeing, partly because of the defence and security ties between the two countries and reconstruction arrangements after the Second World War.
The deal was announced after markets closed in Tokyo but investors cheered reports of the purchase earlier on Monday as JAL's shares closed up 3%.
The push by the European plane maker comes as JAL and domestic rival All Nippon Airways (ANA) - whose fleet is also dominated by Boeing - have been sideswiped by problems with the next generation Dreamliner.
The lightweight plane, hailed for its fuel-efficiency but marred by years of production delays, was grounded globally in January after lithium-ion batteries overheated on two different planes, with one of them catching fire while parked.
The Japanese carriers - the single biggest operators of the Dreamliner -- have put their fleets back into service but they are seeking compensation from Boeing of more than $200m (£120m) amid a global grounding of the model.
"Considering the recent troubles with the Dreamliner, JAL may have reached the conclusion that it wants to avoid the risks," SMBC Friend Research Center senior analyst Mitsuru Miyazaki said.
"The aviation sector is a global industry so it's natural that Japanese airlines want to secure multiple sourcing options for their planes."
But JAL president Yoshiharu Ueki denied the decision to turn to the European manufacturer for replacements for Boeing jets was related to the problems that have plagued the rival 787 Dreamliner.
Months of problems with Dreamliner fleets have eased recently, however Poland's LOT grounded its fleet in September over missing fuel filters.
The Scandinavian carrier Norwegian Long Haul also reportedly replaced one of its two 787s with a leased Airbus after the Boeing aircraft broke down six times last month.
Airbus said its next-generation A350 is 25% more fuel-efficient than its existing† wide-bodied aircraft and has an order book approaching 800 planes.