PARIS — The European Airbus consortium Friday announced an order worth at least $2.5 billion from Northwest Airlines for a proposed line of long- and medium-range passenger jets that will compete with U.S. manufacturers.
Airbus said the deal with the fifth-largest U.S. airline consists of an order for up to 20 A-340 long-range airliners and an option for 10 A-330 medium-range jets.
The contract with the St. Paul, Minn.-based airline represents a major step forward for Airbus, giving it its first customer in the lucrative U.S. market for its controversial long-haul jet program.
It also bolsters the likelihood that the planes, still on the drawing board, will be put into production.
Production of the planes by Airbus, a European aircraft manufacturing consortium, consisting of companies from Britain, France, West Germany and Spain, is opposed by St. Louis-based McDonnell Douglas Corp. and Boeing Co. of Seattle and by the U.S. government. The two firms, which together hold 85% of the world market for big passenger planes, complain that the project has been been unfairly subsidized and comes when the world market is fatigued.