"Airbus today won a new customer for its A380 aircraft - the world's largest passenger plane - as part of an order that could be worth as much as $7bn (£3.7bn).
The aircraft manufacturer said it had signed a memorandum of understanding to sell up to 36 planes to Etihad Airways, based in Abu Dhabi, at the Farnborough air show.
The planes will include four A380s, eight A340s and 12 A330s.
Noel Forgeard, the Airbus chief executive, told reporters the deal included options on 12 more aircraft, boosting its potential value to $7bn.
Aero-engine maker Rolls-Royce told Reuters that the deal to supply engines for Etihad's A340s was worth $400m. The airline has not yet selected an engine supplier for the other planes, and had also considered purchasing planes made by Airbus's US rival Boeing.
"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," Dr Ahmed Bin Saif al Nahyan, the Etihad chairman, said. Yesterday, Boeing announced a deal with Emirates, the Dubai carrier, for 13 of its 777 planes. The agreement is worth up to $3bn.
The Gulf states, which are seeking to develop tourism, have provided a buoyant market for Boeing and Airbus at a time when overall demand has been soft.
Middle East carriers have been the most avid buyers of the A380. Emirates, currently expanding its fleet, plans to acquire 45 of the aircraft, while Qatar Airways has ordered two."