Wed, Jan 18, 2006 - Page 11 News List

Airbus stays atop Boeing in orders

AP , PARIS

A sales surge last month kept Airbus on top of the global passenger jet market last year, the company said yesterday, bettering Boeing Co's orders and deliveries in a record year by both measures.

But Airbus also conceded it had lost ground to Boeing in the market for larger, more profitable planes and said it plans to review its A340 jet given disappointing sales.

Airbus announced 1,055 net orders for last year, beating its US rival's 1,002, and delivered 378 planes to Boeing's 290. Excluding cancellations, the Airbus tally came to 1,111 in orders, the largest number ever booked either side of the Atlantic.

The Airbus figures defied predictions that the European plane maker would lose the lead in orders that it took from Boeing in 2001, two years before it pulled ahead on deliveries. In the 11 months to Nov. 30, Airbus had reported 687 firm orders.

"We had a very busy December," Airbus CEO Gustav Humbert said at a briefing before yesterday's announcement.

The final figures include China's order for 150 jets from the single-aisle A320 family, unveiled during a visit to Paris last month by Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) -- upstaging a Boeing deal the previous month to sell 70 737s to China.

In longer-range, wide-bodied planes, however, it is Airbus that struggled to keep up. Boeing sold 455 such jets last year, representing 44 percent of its total orders. Airbus took orders for 193 of the larger planes, or 17 percent of its total, with the rest made up of single-aisle planes that are less profitable.

As a result, Boeing won the larger share of the overall market by order value last year, Humbert said.

"As far as we see it, Boeing has 55 percent in value and we have 45 percent in value, although we are leading in the number of aircraft," he said.

Humbert also said that the A340 is under review. The four-engine jet -- which flies 380 passengers up to 13,900km in the largest of its three versions -- had won only 15 orders as of Nov. 30. Boeing last year won 154 orders for its competing jet, the twin-engine 777.

"We can and will do better in the long-range field," Humbert said, while stressing that no decision had been taken.

"If we think something has to be done then I will act very quickly, but nothing is on the table," he said.

Orders for the long-range, fuel-efficient A350 -- which enters service in 2010, two years after the competing Boeing 787 Dreamliner -- fell 28 short of the 200 target for the end of last year.

And Airbus is not expecting any slew of new A380 sales until the superjumbo's entry into commercial service, scheduled for the end of this year with Singapore Airlines.

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