A day after European aircraft maker Airbus SAS landed its first 10 orders for the A350, a wide-body plane that will compete directly with Boeing's new 7E7 Dreamliner passenger...

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A day after European aircraft maker Airbus SAS landed its first 10 orders for the A350, a wide-body plane that will compete directly with Boeing’s new 7E7 Dreamliner passenger jet, its U.S. rival delivered a rapid counterpunch by selling 30 7E7s.

Analysts said the $3.6 billion deal reached yesterday between Boeing and Japan Airlines, Asia’s largest carrier in revenue terms, represents an important, though modest victory for Boeing in its mounting trans-Atlantic rivalry.

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But refusing to cede even the slightest public-relations edge, Airbus announced later yesterday that a new Kuwaiti airline, Jazeera Airways, had ordered four Airbus A320s, narrow-body aircraft that compete with Boeing’s 737.

Still, Boeing rightfully laid claim to the deal du jour and investors seemed to agree. Shares of the Chicago-based company rose 49 cents yesterday to $53.91 on the New York Stock Exchange, close to their 52-week high of $55.48.

“It matters a lot, if only to reverse the perception that Airbus regained an unbeatable initiative on the sales front” when it locked in a $2 billion order Tuesday from Spain’s Air Europa for 10 A350s, a plane that has only been marketed for about two weeks, said Richard Aboulafia, an analyst at Teal Group, a Fairfax, Va.-based aerospace consultancy.

Aboulafia said the order from JAL, which has the option to buy 20 more, “could break the logjam” at Boeing, whose only other major order for the 7E7 came in April when All Nippon Airways of Japan, purchased 50 of the fuel-efficient planes in a deal worth about $6 billion. The two-aisle 7E7, which will seat 217 to 289 passengers, is scheduled to begin service in 2008.

With the bulk of the U.S. aviation industry in financial tatters and no major aircraft purchases expected soon from Europe’s largest carriers, analysts say Asia and, to a lesser extent, the Middle East will be the true battlegrounds for Boeing and Airbus over the next few years.