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Business

Paris Air Show sales off to flying start

Soaring demand for fuel-efficient aircrafts have kept planemakers busy, as Asian and Middle Eastern buyers sweep the historic show outside Paris. Both Airbus and Boeing are confident that the boom is far from over.

Aviation giants Airbus and Boeing were scrambling to keep up with demand as the

world's biggest air show got underway in Le Bourget

, France, on Monday.

By noon, the industry's two leading planemakers had already racked up combined orders of more than 200 jetliners, worth nearly $20 billion (18 billion euros), on the show's opening day.

France-based European consortium Airbus got the show going with two big deals: Saudi Arabian Airlines signed up for 20 of the new, lower-weight A330-300 regional aircraft, which can carry up to 400 passengers, and 30 A320neo jets - an order valued at some $8.2 billion. GE Capital Aviation followed suit, placing a $6.4-billion order for 60 A320neos.

Boeing came back strong, securing a $4.8-billion deal with Qatar Airways, which ordered 14 long-range 777 airliners.

Airbus also said Garuda Indonesia had signed a letter of intent to buy 30 A350 XWB jets, worth an estimated $9 billion. The airline, however, also committed to acquiring as many as 30 of Boeing's 787-9 Dreamliners and 30 fuel-efficient, mid-range 737 MAX 8 jets - a double-digit deal that could secure the US-based aircraft manufacturer nearly $11 billion.

Bigger planes, less traffic

Despite the flurry of activity in the opening hours, analysts predicted fewer eye-popping deals than in past years. However, strong demand from Middle Eastern and Asian airlines is sure to keep planemakers busy in the foreseeable future. Planemakers largely have the regions' growing middle classes to thank for this.

"When people have disposable income they use it to fly," Airbus chief John Leahy remarked at a briefing.

With the market for civil aviation booming, Airbus on Monday also raised its forecast for the next two decades. The firm said it expected a nearly 4-percent uptick in jet demand, adding that it remained optimistic about prospects for superjumbos, such as its embattled A380 double-decker.

Last week, the European company's archrival Boeing had similarly increased its long-term sales predictions.

Both companies, however, said they expect less traffic growth, as many airlines will shift to bigger, more fuel-efficient planes to carry larger loads of passengers, in order to deal with increasing congestion at airports around the world.

pad/uhe (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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