Airbus signed deals with Vietnamese carriers worth $6.5 billion during the visit to Vietnam by French President Francois Hollande, which started on September 6.

In the presence of State President Tran Dai Quang and President Hollande, Vietnam Airlines, VietJet Air, and Jetstar Pacific signed deals and memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Airbus to purchase 40 aircraft.

Low-cost carrier VietJet Air purchased 20 aircraft while national flag carrier Vietnam Airlines and budget airline Jetstar Pacific purchased ten each.

Vietnam Airlines, which owns a 70 per cent stake in Jetstar Pacific, signed an MoU for ten Airbus aircraft. “We have operated A350s since July last year and are quite satisfied with the aircraft,” said CEO Duong Tri Thanh.

Last year Vietnam Airlines became the first carrier in East Asia and the second in the world to operate the A350-900 XWB. It now has four in service and now another ten on the way.

If the MoU is fulfilled the additional ten aircraft will enable Vietnam Airlines to operate non-stop flights to the US, carrying 305 passengers in a three class premium layout. The national flag carrier is expected to launch non-stop flights from Vietnam to the US in early 2018.

Vietnam Airlines is operating A350-900 XWBs on international routes to Paris, Incheon, and Shanghai and on domestic routes between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. The new generation aircraft is one of the key factors in helping ensure Vietnam Airlines’ four-star service quality and boost its five-star service upgrade program in the near future.

Low-cost carrier Jetstar Pacific, a joint venture between Vietnam Airlines and Australia’s Qantas Airways, signed a contract with Airbus to buy ten new-generation Airbus A320ceo aircraft.

To be delivered in 2017, the new aircraft will help Jetstar Pacific expand its domestic and international flight network. It plans to increase its fleet to 30 Airbus A320s between 2016 and 2020.

The 2007-founded VietJet Air said it would buy 20 A321s to boost its current fleet of 34 aircraft, all of which are Airbus. The VietJet Air deal comes after it purchased 100 jets from Boeing for $11.3 billion in May, during a visit by President Barack Obama.

Southeast Asia is seen as key growth market for budget air travel, driven by the region’s growing middle class, many of whom are traveling for the first time, according to the airline industry.

With 461 projects worth over $3.4 billion, France is now the third-largest European investor in Vietnam, after the Netherlands and the UK, and ranks 16th among all 114 countries and territories with interests in the country.