Japan Airlines is buying its first-ever jets from Airbus in a deal with a list value of $9.5 billion. The purchase of 31 A350 planes deals a blow to US rival Boeing, which had been JAL's star supplier for decades. Airbus Chief Executive and President Fabrice Bregier and Japan Airlines President Yoshiharu Ueki signed the deal today in Tokyo, which includes an option for JAL to buy 25 more Airbus planes. Ueki said the decision to turn to Airbus, based in France, for replacements for retiring Boeing 777 jets was unrelated to the problems that have plagued Boeing's 787 Dreamliner.
Ueki repeatedly said the A350 was chosen because it was the "best match for our needs." Lately the Airbus-Boeing battle has focused on sales of the next generation of long-range, wide-bodied jets. In that matchup, today's order represents a big blow landed by Airbus A350. JAL may also have its eyes on Airbus' even bigger jet, the A380, as a future buy for use on lucrative routes such as those to Asia. "JAL wants out of its commitment for the 787 with all its problems," says an aviation analyst. "So JAL has been switching gears and moving to Airbus." The planes go into service in 2019, both sides said.