Bill Franke, managing partner of Indigo Partners, left, and John Leahy, chief operating officer – Customers of Airbus, hold a memorandum of understanding after an Airbus announcement in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017. Airbus signed a $49.5 billion deal on Wednesday to sell 430 airplanes to the Phoenix-based private equity firm that owns Frontier Airlines, striking the European aerospace company's biggest deal ever at the Dubai Air Show. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)
INTERNATIONAL - Airbus has landed a deal for a record 430 of its A320neo family jets yesterday as US investor Bill Franke raised his bet on budget airlines.

The preliminary deal, worth up to $50billion (R720.8bn), is designed to supply four airlines in which Franke’s Indigo Partners has stakes: Frontier Airlines, Mexico’s Volaris, Chilean carrier JetSmart and Hungary’s Wizz Air.

The 80-year-old Franke signed the agreement at the Dubai Airshow amid a flurry of deal making, as airlines take advantage of a recent slowdown in demand for new aircraft to negotiate competitive prices from leading manufacturers.

Budget airline flydubai yesterday committed to buying 175 Boeing 737 Max jets, worth around $21bn at list prices.

Airbus said it expected to finalise its agreement with Franke in the coming weeks.

The two deals again underscore how budget carriers are rewriting the rule book by combining bargain fares augmented by optional services and upgrades for which passengers have to pay additional fees.

The Franke deal also marks a dramatic swan-song for Airbus sales chief John Leahy, who is due to retire in the coming months after holding the job since 1994.

The 67-year-old Leahy has overseen the sale of jets worth $1.7trillion at list prices and helped engineer a rise in Airbus’s market share to a par with archrival Boeing from just 18percent.

This year, however, Airbus’s share of the two giants’ combined order tally has dropped to 35percent as a rejuvenated Boeing management made advances in Singapore and elsewhere.

Separately, the prospect of a deal to keep Airbus’s A380 superjumbo in production beyond the end of the decade remained in suspense, with main customer Emirates seeking guarantees on keeping production lines open.

“I think both sides will now take stock and see if something can be agreed later this year,” an industry source said. 

- REUTERS