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Wed 16 Nov 2011 12:49 PM

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Airbus, Boeing tie at Dubai show dominated by drama

Airbus sees public dressing-down offset by billions of dollars of plane orders

Airbus, Boeing tie at Dubai show dominated by drama
Boeing racked up more than $18.5bn worth of plane orders at the Dubai event

Airbus and Boeing finished the Dubai Air Show neck-and-neck on contracts, in an event dominated by Boeing’s biggest-ever order and a public tirade against Airbus by one of its biggest customers.

Boeing left with an order from Emirates for 50 777-300ERs valued at $18bn at list price and pulled in another for two 777 freighters from Qatar Airways worth $560m. Airbus’s $17.6bn order tally relied almost entirely on the single-aisle A320neo, the industry’s fastest-selling model.

Airbus’s success at the show mirrored its performance at the Paris Air event in June, where new engines for its 20 year old A320 drew orders for hundreds of planes. At Dubai, Airbus’s new A350 wide-body failed to attract business and instead drew criticism from Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker, who said design changes on the biggest variant fell short.

“Our A320neo has again been the star of the show,” Airbus chief operating officer John Leahy said in Dubai. “Despite some storm clouds on the horizon there is still strong market demand for fuel-efficient aircraft from airlines and lessors.”

Besides Qatar Airways, Airbus signed deals with Aviation Lease & Finance Co of Kuwait, Spirit Airlines, a low-cost US airline that committed for 75 A320 jets, and US leasing firm Aviation Capital Group for 30 A320neo aircraft.

Airbus’s order from Qatar Airways, which included five additional A380 superjumbos, was a turnaround for the planemaker after Al Baker stood up Leahy for an order announcement yesterday. Instead, he used a press conference with Boeing as a platform to blast Airbus, saying it didn’t know how to make planes and that he was displeased with the A350.

The two sides made up hours later at a signing ceremony for the A320neo and A380 aircraft, with Leahy promising to send his regional sales manager to Doha, where Qatar Airways is based, to better explain the A350 to Al Baker.

Airbus itself released a tally at the show listing 211 orders and commitments valued at $20.5bn at list price. The count included completion of an order for 50 A320neo jets from Aviation Lease & Finance Co. The lessor had already announced a preliminary commitment for 30 of those planes in Paris, which Bloomberg didn’t include in its Dubai tally.

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