Airbus chief salesman John Leahy delivered a jaw-dropping set of new jet orders yesterday to clinch bragging rights on the last trade day...
PARIS — Airbus chief salesman John Leahy delivered a jaw-dropping set of new jet orders yesterday to clinch bragging rights on the last trade day of the Paris Air Show. But there is reason to question whether some of the deals that pumped up those numbers will ever be fulfilled.
One massive 100-jet deal, nominally worth about $6 billion at list prices, came from IndiGo, an Indian startup airline that has yet to fly a single plane.
Kingfisher, another Indian startup that has been flying for five weeks and owns two single-aisle airplanes, on Wednesday announced a $3 billion list-price order that included five superjumbo A380 jets.
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The 138 orders announced yesterday helped push the Airbus tally of sales commitments for the week of the show way above Boeing’s.
Boeing announced 146 sales commitments this week. Of those, 88 are firm orders, meaning airlines have signed binding contracts and paid substantial deposits.
Airbus announced a startling total of 261 sales commitments in Paris. It did not provide a breakdown of how many are firm deals.
Boeing’s total: 146
737s (108 jets)
Alaska Airlines 35
Air Europa(Spain)* 18
777s (38 jets)
Airbus’ tally**: 261
A320s (144 jets)
IndiGo (India, startup) 100
TAM (Brazil) 20
ABC (Mexico, startup) 10
Tiger (Singapore, low-cost carrier) 8
Air Cairo (Egypt) 6
A330s (17 jets)
Jet Airways (India) 10
Kingfisher (India) 5
Air Caraibes (Caribbean) 2
A350s (95 jets)
Alafco (Kuwait) 12
GECAS (Leasing unit of GE) 10
TAM (Brazil) 8
Kingfisher (India) 5
A380s (5 jets)
Kingfisher (India) 5
*Airline’s order not firm
**Orders and other not-yet-binding commitments
Source: Boeing, Airbus
And Leahy’s not done. At a buoyant news conference announcing the latest order yesterday, Leahy touted a couple more deals he’d be working that night.
He said he’d have an order for 40 single-aisle jets on the books today, though he might not be able to announce the identity of the customer. And he said he had a second possible deal with a European airline that may or may not be done in time.
By this morning then, there’s a chance that the Airbus tally will top 300 — more than double Boeing’s total.
Earlier this week in Paris, Leahy predicted he would beat Boeing on sales this year. On the surface at least, the final air-show sales tally looks like spectacular affirmation of that forecast.
But Boeing’s chief sales executive for India, Dinesh Keskar, questioned the seriousness of the Airbus deals from his part of the world.
All Indian airlines together now have a combined fleet of 165 airliners, Keskar said. And even at that number, the Indian airport infrastructure is strained to accommodate them and there is a big shortage of pilots, he said.
“It’s unrealistic for any one entity to fly in India with 100 airplanes,” he said. “Where are you going to park them?”
Keskar said that his team had also negotiated with IndiGo, but had refused to sell them so many airplanes in one purchase.
“We told them it didn’t make sense for an airline that hadn’t flown one flight yet,” he said. “We don’t think this is realistic.”
Another barrier, Keskar said, is that all aircraft purchases in India have to be approved by the government. Keskar said the government would likely withhold approval that would strain the nation’s aviation infrastructure.
“We are very bullish on the future of Indian aviation,” he said, “but we get very concerned when we see such order activity.”
Oddly, Airbus seemed to play down the stunning IndiGo order, which was announced only in a news release. None of the management team from India was in Paris to answer questions.
So what’s the verdict on how Boeing and Airbus did in Paris?
At week’s end, Boeing could feel pleased with its solid order tally. Sales of the 777 were especially strong. The order total was higher than expected, given that the company hadn’t stored up deals for the show but had announced sales all year.
Boeing went into the show with 277 firm orders for the year, a 58 percent market share. At that time, Airbus had 196 firm orders booked.
But with those mightily impressive raw sales numbers announced in Paris, Airbus’ week looks more spectacular.
And the Airbus rival to the 787, the A350, finished the week with a very healthy 125 commitments.
Olivier Andries, Airbus senior vice president and head of the A330, A340 and A350 programs, said yesterday that delivery slots for the jet are essentially sold out for the first two years, through 2012.
It looks like the A350 will be a serious competitor to the Everett-built jet.
However, a final verdict on all these sales announcements will have to wait until orders are firmed up. The top sales people at both companies have predicted victory in 2005 orders.
In the meantime, Leahy grabbed the Paris headlines and saved the show for Airbus.
Dominic Gates: 206-464-2963 or email@example.com