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Aer Lingus Orders 12  New Airbus Aircraft for $2.4 Billion

By Reuters

Irish airline Aer Lingus said on Wednesday it is to acquire 12 new Airbus aircraft valued at $2.4 billion.

The former state carrier said it will take six A330-300E and six A350 XWB Airbus airplanes, with deliveries to start in 2009.

Aer Lingus said it will have the option to purchase a further six A350 XWB aircraft for delivery by 2018.

Airbus's planned A350 mid-range passenger jet is intended to rival Boeing's 787 Dreamliner. Airbus President Louis Gallois had said on Monday the company would see a new order for the A350 before the Paris air show later this month.

"These aircraft are key to our growth ambitions which include new routes to the U.S.," Aer Lingus Chief Executive Dermot Mannion said in a statement.

"The aircraft will complement our existing Airbus fleet and enhance our long haul network."

Aer Lingus said "substantial discounts off the catalogue prices have been negotiated."

The deal was subject to shareholder approval, it added.

The planned acquisition will increase Aer Lingus's long-haul fleet to 14 aircraft by 2014 from nine this year, the company said.

Ireland's former national carrier has said ever since its privatization last year that it intended to use funds raised by the flotation to expand its current fleet of Airbus aircraft.

Aer Lingus, the subject of a long-running hostile takeover bid by larger rival Ryanair, is tapping into resources freed up by its privatization to expand both short and long-haul operations and compete more effectively with Ryanair.