- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 16, 2005

PARIS (AP) — Airbus announced 138 new passenger orders and commitments at Le Bourget yesterday, taking to 261 the total number of jets it has sold at the Paris Air Show — as Boeing called it a day with 146.

A surprise 100-plane order from a new Indian airline, IndiGo, accounted for most of the gap between the trans-Atlantic rivals after a fourth day of deal-making at the world’s biggest aerospace industry gathering.

Boeing is unlikely to announce any further business at the show, the company said, but Airbus hinted that more orders would be announced today. “The week isn’t finished yet,” spokeswoman Barbara Kracht said.

Some analysts had predicted that Boeing this year could regain the lead in orders it lost four years ago, but the late surge by Airbus makes that prospect less likely.

By the start of June, Boeing had chalked up 255 firm orders to Airbus’ 196. Airbus could overtake its Chicago rival in coming months as nonbinding commitments announced this week are completed as firm orders.

Neither Boeing Co. nor Airbus supplied figures for the value of business they did at Le Bourget. But estimates based on their catalog prices suggest Airbus sold about $29 billion worth of planes — almost double the $15 billion sold by Boeing.

The IndiGo deal alone was worth about $6 billion at list price, Airbus said, as it announced that New Delhi travel company InterGlobe Enterprises Ltd. and Indian businessman Rakesh Gangwal were teaming up to start the new low-cost domestic carrier. Mr. Gangwal has worked as a senior executive for US Airways, United Airlines and Air France.

“IndiGo is the result of extensive analysis and planning by very experienced airline executives, and we’re convinced it will be a successful new player,” Airbus Chief Executive Noel Forgeard said.

But some industry watchers were skeptical. Richard Aboulafia of U.S. aerospace consultancy Teal Group said commitments from ambitious startups such as IndiGo and Kingfisher Airlines — another Indian no-frills carrier, which became the 16th customer for the 555-seater Airbus A380 “superjumbo” — were less likely to lead to final deliveries than those from established carriers.

“It’s very unlikely those five A380s will ever see the light of day,” said Mr. Aboulafia — although he said Airbus scored hits with blue-chip orders for its A350, the planned rival to Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, from aircraft leasing company GECAS and Qatar Airways.

Boeing spokesman Todd Blecher insisted the company was “not at all” disappointed with its Le Bourget showing and said it was too early to rule out taking more orders than Airbus this year.

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