Airbus Extends Air Show Order Lead Over Boeing

By: GREG KELLER, AP Business Writer Email
By: GREG KELLER, AP Business Writer Email

LE BOURGET, France (AP) - Airbus extended its lead over arch-rival Boeing Co. in the hunt for orders at the Paris Air Show on Thursday with the signature of two deals with Chinese and Hungarian airlines.

On the fourth day of the world's largest air show, which has seen far fewer deals than years past, Airbus and Hungarian budget carrier Wizz Air signed a memorandum of understanding for 50 A320 single-aisle passenger jets, worth $3.8 billion at list prices.

The deal should become a firm order shortly, Airbus' Chief Operating Officer John Leahy said at a signing ceremony.

Wizz Air already operates a fleet of 24 Airbus A320s, taking the Hungarian company's total orders for Airbus jets to 132 aircraft, Airbus said.

The Wizz Air deal came on the back of a $1.45 billion order for 20 A320s that China Eastern Airlines announced overnight.

Airbus has now racked up $11.5 billion in orders and agreements this week, well ahead of Boeing, which notched up its first air show order on Wednesday - a $153 million deal for only two jets with Japan's MC Aviation Partners.

Yet even Airbus' numbers were diminutive compared to sales in past years. Airlines and governments strapped for cash and credit appeared to have come to the world's biggest air show as tourists instead of buyers this year, admiring the high-tech hardware but hiding their checkbooks.

Airbus' spokesman Stefan Schaffrath said he is "confident there are more orders to come," but time was running out as many exhibitors arrived to the fourth day of the week-long air show with suitcases in hand.

The air show opens to the public on Friday.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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