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Airbus reshuffles large American Airlines jet order

The logo of Airbus Group is seen during the first public flight of an E-Fan aircraft during the e-Aircraft Day at the Bordeaux Merignac airp
The logo of Airbus Group is seen during the first public flight of an E-Fan aircraft during the e-Aircraft Day at the Bordeaux Merignac airp

By Tim Hepher

PARIS (Reuters) -Airbus took 78 orders in April but remained behind Boeing in the battle for new business after a relatively quiet month dominated by the reshuffling of existing orders, data released by the European planemaker showed on Wednesday.

The planemaker unit of Airbus Group said it had received 236 orders up to the end of April and cancellations for 94, bringing its net order total for 2014 to 142 aircraft.

U.S. planemaker Boeing has said it booked 335 gross orders and 288 net orders up to April 29.

Airbus data reflected some reallocation of an order from American Airlines for 260 Airbus A320-family planes in 2011.

That deal, a record at the time, was due to be split equally between versions of the revamped A320neo family and the existing generation of Airbus medium-haul jets known as A320ceo.

The transaction was so big that Airbus agreed to arrange for half of the 260 jets to be supplied by leasing companies from planes already in the market, but the new data showed it will sell part of this leasing quota instead.

American has downgraded 30 orders for the A321neo, the largest version of the series, to options, the airline said recently, leaving a total of 100 revamped jets on firm order.

At the same time, 71 aircraft that were originally due to have been leased to American now appear as direct purchases from Airbus. This is in addition to seven aircraft already switched from leases to direct purchases from the planemaker.

The net result is that American will buy more planes directly from Airbus than originally intended, though its firm order for 130 of the new "neo" version of jet now stands at 100.

The 2011 American deal forced Boeing to follow Airbus' strategy by revamping its 737 jets with new engines rather than waiting for a more ambitious redesign of its most-sold jet.

The fleet overhaul was complex not only because of its size but because the airline went into bankruptcy protection in November 2011, four months after signing the deal. It exited bankruptcy when it merged with US Airways in December 2013.

Airbus sales chief John Leahy told Reuters last year some of the jets due to be supplied to the U.S. airline on its behalf by lessors would be supplied directly instead.

The reshuffle came as U.S. leasing giant International Lease Finance Corp, which is due to be taken over by Dutch-based AerCap , cancelled orders for 9 A321ceo aircraft.

Airbus's order tally was boosted by an internal sale of six A330 long-distance jets to its military division for conversion into aerial refueling tankers.

Airbus delivered 193 aircraft between January and April including six A380 superjumbos. In the first quarter, the latest period for which Boeing delivery data is available, the U.S. company delivered 161 passenger aircraft.

(This version is corrected to say Airbus will "sell" part of the leasing quota, not "supply" in 6th paragraph; in 7th paragraph corrects to say "has downgraded 30 orders ... to... options," not "converted" the orders; in 8th paragraph corrects number that appear as direct purchases to 71, not 41, and adds detail on seven aircraft already switched; in paragraph 11, corrects to show that airline went into bankruptcy after it entered into the deal, not that it was already in bankruptcy)

(Additional reporting by Cyril Altmeyer; Editing by Brian Love and James Regan)

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