Lion Air closing on substantial Airbus order: source

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Lion Air is likely to seal a deal with Airbus for a substantial number of narrowbody aircraft early next week, the same week its Malaysian joint venture Malindo Air is set to launch.

The Indonesian low-cost carrier will likely be making a "three-digit order" for the Airbus A320-family aircraft including the re-engined variant, a source familiar with the situation says.

This order, if confirmed, would be a significant deal for Airbus as it would break Boeing's dominance in the Indonesian market.

Lion Air could not immediately comment.

Flightglobal Pro reported in January that Lion Air was close to a decision on whether to order the re-engined Airbus A320neo family, and that it could result in a substantial order that would likely match Lion's 2012 order for 201 Boeing 737 Max and 737NGs.

Airbus, which was also in contention for the deal, was disappointed when Lion went with Boeing, with its executives saying that they had come close to clinching it.

This week, Airbus chief operating officer for customers John Leahy indicated that the A320neo backlog would pass 2,000 before the end of the month - an achievement that required fresh orders for some 120 aircraft.

Lion president director Rusdi Kirana said in October last year that he was calling on Boeing to speed up delivery of its aircraft to meet the group's ambitious growth plans.

Malindo, a joint venture between Lion and Malaysia's National Aerospace and Defence Industries, is schedule to start operations on 22 March. The new carrier is due to take delivery of its first 737-900ER aircraft on 15 March, and will receive about two aircraft monthly thereafter.

Lion has also brought forward the launch of its new premium carrier Batik Air to April, and is aiming to grow its fleet to 100 aircraft within 10 years.