Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, has selected Airbus widebody long-range aircraft and the new generation double-deck Airbus A380 for its future growth. The Abu Dhabi based full-service airline has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to purchase 24 Airbus aircraft, including four of the highly advanced double-decked A380s, four ultra-long range A340-500s, four A340-600s and twelve A330-200s, the most efficient widebody twin. Deliveries to Etihad are to begin in 2006 for the A330-200s and A340-500s, and in 2007 for the A340-600s and A380s. The A340-500s and 600s will be powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 500s ? the A330 and A380 engines have yet to be selected. Etihad will use the aircraft to further develop its route network within the Middle East and to Europe, Asia, India and to North America. Etihad currently operates a fleet of six aircraft, including four of the market leading A330-200s and an Airbus A340-300. Dr Ahmed Bin Saif al Nahyan, chairman of Etihad Airways said, "Today is a truly significant day in Etihad's young existence. I cannot recall a time in airline history when a start-up operation, barely eight months old, has had the confidence, resources and ambition to place orders for 24 new widebodied and very large aircraft. If you think the last eight months have been busy for us ? this is nothing compared to what the coming months and years have in store." "We have, for over a year now, been in intensive discussions about our future craft needs with both Boeing and Airbus in which we considered a whole range of aircraft types, ? the chairman continued. ?In all these discussions, we have had one goal " a fleet strategy which matches our own objectives of providing high quality air services to, from and through Abu Dhabi " the capital of the United Arab Emirates. We believe that the Airbus range of aircraft offers us the best option for both guest satisfaction and the future growth of the airline." Etihad's commitment gives me a great sense of pride. In less than one year, Etihad has attained an enviable reputation as one of the most respected airlines in the region. With our modern and very efficient aircraft we are proud to become Etihad's partner for its rapidly expanding network, said Noël Forgeard, Airbus President and Chief Executive Officer. The Airbus A380 is the only modern aircraft design in the valuable 400-plus seat market, in which it has already established strong market leadership. Passengers will enjoy an outstanding level of comfort with more space in every seat, while airlines benefit from significant lower operating and maintenance costs. Airbus A330/A340 aircraft form the most flexible and efficient long-range wide-body- family available on the market. They are equipped and manufactured with state-of-the-art technology, both in terms of materials and systems. With the A330/A340 and A380 sharing the same basic cockpit, Etihad is in addition well placed to benefit from savings in training for pilots, maintenance engineers and cabin crew. Airbus is a leading aircraft manufacturer with the most modern and comprehensive family of airliners on the market. Airbus is a global company with design and manufacturing facilities in France, Germany, the UK and Spain, as well as subsidiaries in the US, China and Japan. It is headquartered in Toulouse, France. Airbus is an EADS joint Company with BAE Systems.