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Chilean airline opts for secure upgrade

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
by Staff Writers
Santiago, Chile (UPI) Dec 22, 2010
Chile's LAN airline has placed a record purchase order with Airbus for 50 medium-range passenger jets in an acquisitions program aimed at giving passengers confidence Latin American air transportation is safe and secure.

The airline purchase put in sharp relief the relative absence of U.S. manufacturers from the Latin American scene because of several years of lackluster engagement with the continent by previous U.S. administrations.

Recent global trends and increased prosperity have made Latin America more security conscious and led to greater allocations by governments toward military acquisitions as well as large-scale aviation upgrades. Similar trends led to major spending outlays in Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador and Peru.

The European aircraft manufacturer said it received a firm order from LAN for 50 medium-haul A320 Airbus airliners. Industry sources said the order at current list prices would be worth more than $4 billion. Airbus didn't cite the contracted amount for the purchase, which calls for deliveries to begin in 2013.

The deal began to take shape after the two sides met at the Farnborough international air show in England in July. LAN wants the A320 to be its replacement aircraft for both existing and new routes in and outside Latin America.

Airbus said LAN also opted for Sharklets -- large wing-tip devices that enhance the eco-efficiency and payload-range performance of the A320 family. Airbus says Sharklets can reduce each aircraft's fuel burn by up to 3.5 percent over longer distances, which corresponds to an annual reduction of up to 700 metric tons of carbon dioxide per aircraft. Airbus is touting Sharklets as a part of its "larger, continuous-improvement" program for the A320 family.

LAN will also buy 10 A321s, a new type of aircraft for the airline's inventory. The latest order brings LAN's total Airbus orders to 152 aircraft.

LAN Chief Operating Officer Ignacio Cueto said the airline was choosing aircraft based on their ability to effectively and efficiently serve our short- and long-haul flight needs.

Airbus has sold more than 550 aircraft in Latin America and has a record backlog of more than 250 aircraft to be delivered to its Latin American customers. More than 300 Airbus aircraft fly with 22 Latin American airline customers and operators, representing more than 40 percent of the fleet in service in the region.

Like other European suppliers in aviation, defense and other industries Airbus has moved into Latin America with gusto at a time when both governments and suppliers in North America grapple with political issues related to resumed sales in the southern continent.

A similar scenario has seen French, German and Russian manufacturers secure defense markets as Latin American armed forces embark on extensive modernization and refurbishment programs.

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