March 14, 2019 / 7:16 AM / in 3 months

Airbus, Ethiopian Airlines discussing new plane deal: French official

A logo of Airbus is seen on a flag at Airbus headquarters in Blagnac, near Toulouse, France, February 14, 2019. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau/Files

NAIROBI, March 14 (Reuters) - European planemaker Airbus is discussing a new order with Ethiopian Airlines and there are “positive signs” that a long-negotiated deal with China may be concluded later this month, a French presidential source said on Thursday.

The Elysee official gave no details on the size of the potential new Ethiopian order but cited the long-range A350, a model which Ethiopian already operates, and the single-aisle A320 jet as aircraft that were of interest to the airline.

President Emmanuel Macron and Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed discussed the possible order during Macron’s visit on Tuesday, two days after an Ethiopian Boeing 737 MAX 8 crashed minutes after taking off, killing all 157 people.

Data about the plane’s flight path indicated some similarities with a crash involving the same model in Indonesia five months earlier. Aviation authorities around the world have temporarily banned the money-spinning aircraft from flying, leaving the world’s largest planemaker facing its worst crisis in years.

Separately, the Elysee official said there were hopes a huge Airbus deal with China could be concluded when President Xi Jinping visits Europe later this month.

Macron failed to clinch the deal during a trip to China in early 2018 and the French government and European planemaker have been working to salvage it. Macron said at the time that China would buy 184 A320 narrow-body jets, an order worth $18 billion at list prices.

“There are positive signs,” the Elysee official said.

Reporting by John Irish; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Mark Potter

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