Airbus, Boeing set for record year as air travel pick-up fuels fleet expansion
Investment by airlines in new aircraft comes despite the soaring costs of aviation fuel, with the renewed confidence grounded in the emergence of the air travel market from a three-year depression following the Sept 11 attacks.
With three months to go until the end of the year, Airbus's commercial director John Leahy has said the companies will push close to the record 1,500 orders taken in 1986.
His counterpart at Boeing, Scott Larson, believes that the industry has never had it so good.
Most of the new orders have come from European and Asian airlines that have suffered less than their US-based rivals from the increase in the cost of kerosene linked to the surge in crude oil prices in the last six months.
Aviation fuel now accounts for more than 20 pct of the operating costs of airlines.
Airbus said it hoped to receive 200 orders for the A350 by the end of the year. Airbus' shareholders, the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co (EADS), and BAE Systems PLC of Britain, last week gave formal backing to the industrial launch of the aircraft, destined to challenge Boeing's Dreamliner.
US-based airlines have invested less and are struggling with the increase in costs caused by the rise in oil prices. The US industry is expected to post a collective loss of 8 ln usd this year, according to a forecast from the industry association IATA.
To keep pace with this demand, Airbus intends to expand its production facilities to build more A320s.
Between now and 2007, the group plans to increase its production of small aircraft to 32 per month compared with 27 today, the highest production level ever reached by the European group, according to chief executive Gustav Humbert.
Each side argues that government aid provided by the other has provided an unfair advantage in the global aircraft market, breaching rules of global commerce.