Aircalin (Air Caledonie International) has signed a contract with Airbus for an A320, becoming a new customer for the type. It will receive the A320 in early 2004, and plans to use it on flights from New Caledonia to Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Islands, including Wallis and Futuna.

Aircalin's A320 will seat 8 passengers in business class, and 138 in economy. At the same time, the company confirms it has selected International Aero Engines V2500-A5 engines to power the aircraft.

Aircalin has already put into service two Airbus A330-200s. The addition of the A320 will make it an all-Airbus operator.

"Our routes are crucial to the success of international trade and tourism for New Caledonia, and our modern Airbus fleet is the key to offering customers great service at economic prices," says Aircalin Chief Executive Officer Jean-Michel Masson. "The A320 will complement our A330s by flying short to medium haul routes and, with the same basic cockpit, is a natural addition to our fleet. It also enables Air Calin to offer the best comfort level available on the market and the youngest fleet in the Pacific region."

Airbus aircraft have enjoyed considerable success in the Pacific in recent years, with all of the major "flag carriers" choosing them for their fleet modernisations.

"Following the widebody A330 and A340, which have already established themselves as the 250-300 seaters of choice in the Pacific, the A320 Family is now also becoming the aircraft of preference in the region" says Airbus President and Chief Executive Officer Noël Forgeard.

Airbus' A320 Family features the most modern design, the widest and most comfortable cabin, and a unique level of operational commonality for any single-aisle aircraft. It also has great economics, low maintenance costs, transcontinental range, and a proven worth as an excellent financial investment. The A320 is thus a firm favourite with passengers, invariably coming top in independent surveys, as well as consistently leading in financial and operator polls.

Widely accepted as the industry standard, the best–selling Airbus A320 Family comes in four different sizes - the 107-seat A318, 124 seat A319, 150 seat A320 and 185 seat A321. All of them share the same airframe – only the fuselage lengths are different – plus the same cockpits, systems and engines deliver unmatched commonality and savings to airlines.

Firm orders for the best-selling A320 family now approach 3,000, almost 2,000 of which have been delivered, with some 130 customers and operators.

Airbus has a long-established and increasingly strong presence in the Pacific, where most of the major airlines have made Airbus aircraft the cornerstone of their future fleets.

Airbus is an EADS joint Company with BAE SYSTEMS.