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With deals from 5 carriers, Airbus gains early edge over Boeing at air show

A double-decker Airbus A380 dwarfs a tilt-rotor aircraft at the 47th Paris Air Show. Airbus has orders for just five of the superjumbos to date, three of which were bought by Qatar Airlines. (Pascal Rossignol/Reuters)

LE BOURGET, France -- Airbus racked up a series of big orders at the opening of the world's biggest air show yesterday, stealing some early limelight from US rival Boeing Co.

With the aircraft makers' intense competition again expected to be a dominant theme of the weeklong show at Le Bourget, north of Paris, both looked to make a splash from the get-go, with billions of dollars worth of orders booked.

Airbus booked orders from US Airways, Qatar Airlines, Emirates, Jazeera Airways, and Nouvelair for a raft of planes, including its problem-plagued A350 and superjumbo A380 models.

Airbus sales chief John Leahy predicted yesterday that the plane maker will land more than 280 orders over the week -- airplane manufacturers often reserve big disclosures for the show to ensure maximum impact.

At the last Le Bourget show in 2005, Airbus revealed orders worth $33.5 billion, double Boeing's $15 billion, based on list prices -- which are usually discounted for the deals.

Leahy noted that Airbus racked up 280 "announcements" -- including memorandums of understanding and other agreements that were not firm orders -- two years ago.

"I would expect to exceed that this year, by how much it will exceed, why don't we wait until Friday to see," he said.

US Airways Group Inc. was one of the first to post an order yesterday, saying it had agreed to terms on 60 of Airbus's A320 single-aisle aircraft and 32 widebody aircraft including the redesigned A350s, boosting the total for A350s from a previously reported 20 to 22.

In another major order for the Toulouse, France-based company, GE Commercial Aviation Services ordered 60 of the A320 family aircraft in a deal worth around $4.4 billion at list prices.

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