AirAsia orders 200 Airbus planes in Paris

PARIS — The blockbuster deal of the show was an Airbus order from low-cost carrier AirAsia.

The Asia-Pacific-based airline finalized a deal for 200 A320neo aircraft. It's the largest order ever placed for the A320 family of aircraft, Airbus said, making the airline Airbus' biggest customer for its single-aisle products.

AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes told the story of how the contract got completed during a media briefing Thursday.

Airbus executives asked Fernandes to sign the memo of understanding for the aircraft earlier this year, but Fernandes replied, "I don't sign contracts on Tuesdays."

So he asked Airbus executives Tom Enders and John Leahy and EADS CEO Louis Gallois to go out to a club that evening. It was Valentine's Day.

At midnight, Leahy asked Fernandes to sign the deal.

"I haven't seen you on the dance floor," Fernandes said.

"I don't dance," Leahy replied.

"Then I don't sign," Fernandes said.

At that point, Enders turned to Leahy and said, "John, dance!"

After 15 minutes and three dances, the men went to the bar to sign the deal. The memo of understanding was finalized into a firm order this week.

No holding back

Enders worked to dismiss the notion that Airbus saves up orders to announce at the Paris Air Show.

Two orders were finalized just Wednesday evening, Enders said.

That was the case with GoAir, an Indian airline that placed a firm order for 73 A320neo aircraft. It also was the case with AirAsia.

A GoAir executive joked that they were still negotiating early Thursday morning.

After announcing the large order with Airbus, a reporter asked GoAir chief executive Giorgio de Roni when the airline may order more.

"Allow me some rest at least," de Roni answered. "It is tough to negotiate with manufacturers."

Student winners

Five students were more than $40,000 richer Thursday after finishing first in a Fly Your Ideas contest that challenges them to develop a more eco-friendly aviation industry in the future.

A team from Nanjing University won for its suggestion of a ground-based wind power generation system that exploits the wakes aircraft generate when they take off and land.

The team's idea uses a series of leaf-shaped devices placed along the sides of airport runways that are disturbed by the passing of aircraft and recover energy that's lost. The winners also receive internships at Airbus, which sponsored the contest.

The contest is held every other year and is open to students worldwide.

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