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Airbus edges Boeing in orders race at Paris air show

Published:Friday | June 19, 2015 | 6:00 AM
An Airbus A380 aircraft performs a demonstration flight at the Paris Air Show, in Le Bourget airport, north of Paris, Thursday, June 18, 2015. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

Airbus glided past United States rival Boeing to take top honours in their annual competition to sell commercial jets at the Paris Air Show, according to final tallies that together amounted to over US$107 billion in business.

The announcements Thursday capped four days of deal-making at the biennial air show, when top executives from the world's largest airlines clink champagne glasses and write whopping checks as test pilots fly demonstrations of high-tech aircraft at Paris' normally sleepy Le Bourget airfield.

Airbus racked up US$57 billion worth of business for 421 aircraft. The announcement of a provisional deal by European low-cost carrier Wizz Air for 110 A321neos - worth more than US$12.5 billion at list prices - put the Toulouse, France-based plane maker over the top Thursday against Boeing in financial terms. It was the show's single biggest order.

Chicago-based Boeing tallied orders and commitments for 331 planes worth US$50.2 billion. Its biggest deal was with Dutch leasing company AerCap for 100 737MAX-8 planes, worth up to US$10.7 billion at list prices. Customers routinely negotiate discounts off those list prices.

Overall, business was not as good as in previous years. Last year, at Britain's Farnborough Air Show, which trades the spotlight with Paris from year to year as the site of Europe's premier aviation event, Airbus clinched orders and commitments for 486 aircraft valued at US$75 billion. But Boeing won more this year than last, when it landed business worth US$40.2 billion for 201 planes.

Industry watchers had been expecting a modest haul of orders as airlines pull back from a record-breaking spate of plane buying in recent years.

High fuel prices up until a year ago had prompted airlines to invest massively in a new generation of more fuel-economical aircraft like the Airbus A320neo and the Boeing 737MAX.

Thursday's announcements wrapped up the press-and-industry-only part of the air show, which now opens to the public from Friday to Sunday.

Airbus' orders count appeared to surpass its own expectations. On Tuesday, Airbus CEO Fabrice Bregier had told The Associated Press that he predicted about 200 orders or commitments by the end of the show.

While Airbus executives have forecast high demand for the company's A380 superjumbo to serve growing megacities, the company booked no new orders for the massive 500-seater. The last order for the jet dates back to last year.

Boeing forecasts demand for 38,050 airplanes over the next 20 years, and says 26,730 of those will be single-aisle jets. Airbus projects that 32,600 new planes worth a total of US$4.9 trillion will be needed by 2034.

Indonesian flag-carrier Garuda was one of the show's most active buyers, signing a letter of intent for up to 60 Boeing jets - 30 of the popular single-aisle 737MAX and 30 787-9 planes.

Garuda also put in a provisional order for 30 wide-body Airbus A350 planes, worth about US$9 billion, which could serve routes from Jakarta or Bali to Europe.