Airbus sales 'better than expected' at Paris Air Show

European aircraft manufacturer Airbus says this year's Paris Air Show has been "more successful than expected," confirming orders for 58 planes worth 9.26 billion euros. US rival Boeing has sold just two aircraft.


AFP - European aircraft manufacturer Airbus said Friday it had won firm orders for 58 aircraft at the Paris Air Show, which had turned out to be more fruitful than had been expected.

"The Air Show was definitely more successful than we had anticipated, which is an indication that the market seems to be slowly beginning to turn around," Airbus commercial director John Leahy told AFP on the fifth day of the show here, which runs to Sunday.

Friday was the first day for attendance by the general public after four days that had been reserved for industry professionals and journalists.

Leahy put the value of Airbus firm orders at the show at 6.4 billion dollars (4.6 billion euros). When the value of draft agreements and intentions to purchase are added, the total comes to 12.9 billion dollars, he added.

US rival Boeing's haul was limited to two planes at a total catalogue price of 153 million dollars.

During the 2007 edition of the biennial show, and well before the onset of a global economic crisis that drained demand for aircraft and air travel, Airbus and Boeing won 800 orders worth more than 100 billion dollars.

Prior to the opening of this year's show, industry executives and analysts had predicted that in a world gripped by recession, blockbuster aircraft orders would be a thing of the past.

Airbus, a unit of the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company, has said it hopes to secure 300 orders in all of 2009 but has warned that in light of the current economic downturn, far fewer planes could be sold.

The target for deliveries this year is roughly the same as in 2008, or 483, according to Leahy.

Senior officials from both Airbus and Boeing earlier this week said they saw hope for a rebound in the global aviation sector next year.

"We find that puzzling, given that the current decline in air traffic is going to lead to net and operational losses," commented analyst Zafar Khan of Societe Generale bank.

Just ahead of the Paris show, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) predicted an 8.0 percent decline in passenger numbers this year to 2.06 billion and said airlines could lose 9.0 billion dollars, almost double the estimate three months ago.

Khan predicted that under these circumstances, airlines will likely have to reduce capacity, serving fewer destinations less frequently or with smaller planes -- a climate hardly conducive to big ticket purchases.

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