Airbus is turning up the heat on U.S. rival Boeing even before Paris Air Show.
The Toulouse, French-based company racked up orders for 102 upgraded versions of its hot-selling A320 single-aisle jet that’s a favourite of medium-haul operators and low cost carriers.Airlines are interested in the A320neo because it will be powered by newly-developed engines and wing tip devices that improve the plane’s aerodynamics, together offering 15% fuel economy compared to current versions. Boeing, meanwhile, is sitting on the fence, still debating with itself and with its customers whether or not to bolt new engines on to its competing 737 or to leapfrog Airbus and go for a clean-sheet design offering better economics than the A320neo. The drawback is that this wouldn’t be available until the end of the decade.
Boeing’s head of marketing, Randy Tinseth, said Thursday that Boeing’s customers—and the company itself—are leaning toward the idea of an all-new aircraft. “Customers have told us to take a hard look at what we can do about bringing a new airplane to the market. Their preference would be a new airplane, and frankly our preference would be a new airplane, but we have a lot work to do,” he told a group of journalists.
Airbus has predicted a slew of contracts at next week’s event, and today’s orders announced by Cebu Pacific Air, the Philippines budget carrier, and India’s Go Air for 30 and 72 of the re-engined jets respectively is just a foretaste of what’s to come next week. Airbus has predicted that the order book for the fuel-efficient A320neo family will top 500 by the end of next week. Yesterday it stood at 332, and with today’s announcements it stands at 434, leaving only 66 to go, an easy target judging by Airbus’s track record at previous air shows.
At last year’s air show held at Farnborough, England, Airbus racked up firm orders and commitments for 255 planes. Malaysia’s AirAsia and Qatar Airways are rumoured to be sharpening their pencils for big A320neo orders next week.
Boeing doesn’t like playing the orders number game with Airbus at air shows, and prefers to announce orders as and when they are signed throughout the year rather than storing them up for an announcement blitz.