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Airbus keeps aircraft order lead over U.S. rival Boeing

The European firm Airbus won contracts for 574 jetliners in 2010, while Boeing sold 530 as aviation demand rebounded worldwide.

January 17, 2011|Bloomberg News

Airbus secured more than twice the number of aircraft orders in 2010 than it had anticipated at the start of the year, helping the European manufacturer maintain its lead over Boeing Co. as demand rebounded around the world.

Airbus won contracts last year for 644 jets, compared with its original prediction of 300, Chief Executive Tom Enders said Monday. The net order intake came to 574, after 70 cancellations. Boeing won 530 net orders after 95 cancellations and delivered 462 planes. Airbus delivered a record 510 planes.

"2010 was a good year, better than expected, and with that behind us, I'd look more optimistically now toward the future," Enders said at a briefing in Paris. "Growth, especially in aviation, is back, and this is largely due to emerging markets: Asia, the Middle East. That's certainly been the focus."

The plane maker expects deliveries to rise to as many as 530 aircraft in 2011, with new orders topping that figure, Enders said. The company aims to secure a higher percentage of orders from North America this year, as Delta Air Lines Inc. and other carriers start replacing aging aircraft and airlines consider the revamped A320, Airbus's most successful aircraft.

Airbus is building 36 single-aisle planes each month, with plans to increase the rate to 40 in 2012. Demand is sufficient for Airbus to raise single-aisle production to as many as 44 monthly, and wide-body jets to 10 or 11 a month from nine, Enders said, with a decision expected shortly.

Virgin America Inc., the carrier part owned by British billionaire Richard Branson, said Monday that it ordered 60 Airbus planes valued at $5.1 billion in a plan to more than double its fleet while cutting its carbon footprint. The order includes 30 A320 single-aisle planes and 30 upgraded models of that plane.

At $74 billion, the value of Airbus' net orders at list price also beat its U.S. rival's $49.5 billion, as Airbus delivered more of the costlier wide-body and jumbo planes, including 18 A380s double-decker aircraft. Airbus missed a target of 20 A380 deliveries in 2010, after the explosion of a Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engine on a Qantas Airways Ltd. A380 disrupted output because some engines had to be switched.

Airbus is developing the A350, a twin-aisle, long-range plane that will compete against Boeing's 787 and 777. Enders said assembly of the first plane is set to start at the end of 2011, with the first delivery planned by the end of 2013.

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