Boeing, Airbus Rivalry Heats Up at Paris Air Show

Last Updated Jun 20, 2011 2:55 PM EDT

In their biennial Paris Air Show sales competition, rivals Boeing and Airbus jostle to lead, but both are winners. Between them, they announced more than $12.6 billion in new jet sales on the first day of industry's big trade show.

Even though exhibitors have cut their budgets for the trade show by 10 percent to 30 percent, airline concerns over the price of fuel and cost efficiency drove the business, with Airbus taking the lead in the number of planes, but Boeing showing a bigger list price sales total. Not only do the sales mean incoming over the coming years, but they are a weapon in the mind game that Boeing and Airbus play, trying to position themselves as winners of the industry's future.

Viva la France
It only took one order to push Airbus into the unit sales lead. The company announced a sale to GE Capital Aviation Services of 60 A320neo jets, a more fuel-efficient version of the company's popular medium-range commercial craft. The sale is worth $5.5 billion at list price, though expect discounting. That brings the total orders and commitments for this craft to 390, although it isn't expected to be ready until 2015 (click graph to enlarge):

Money talks loud
Although Airbus has taken an early lead in the number of aircraft sold, Boeing has got the edge on money through its deals. Qatar Airways ordered six 777-300ERs, valued at $1.7 billion. Two undisclosed customers ordered 17 747-8 Intercontinentals at $5.4 billion. That totals $7.1 billion, which doesn't include 20 planes and options on an additional 13 craft for Air Lease Corporation. (As the deal isn't finalized, Boeing did not release the total sales amount.)

But that will only get Boeing so far. Airbus has already taken a lead in redesigning aircraft for greater fuel efficiency. Boeing has yet to publicly announce whether it will fully redesign its 737 or change the engine only.

Airbus also leads in a less prestigious category: goofs. Two key planes of the company were damaged en route to the show. While on a runway, the wing tip of its demo A380 hit a building, damaging the unit. And mechanical problems will keep a military transporter from its aerial display, though it can still fly.


Image: Getty
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    Erik Sherman is a widely published writer and editor who also does select ghosting and corporate work. The views expressed in this column belong to Sherman and do not represent the views of CBS Interactive. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman or on Facebook.