Airbus and Boeing each saw sizable order activity during the Farnborough Air Show, but executives from the world’s two airframe making giants harbored somewhat different perspectives on the general character of the order activity. Boeing vice president of commercial sales Ihssane Mounir, for example, characterized the large number of unidentified customers as simply a result of typical air show exuberance, while Airbus head of sales Eric Shultz attributed it to hesitancy over global trade tensions.
“The fact that the world every morning is waking up to see which tweets have hit which part of the world doesn’t really help,” said Schultz. “We can see the market being a little bit cautious as to what is going on in the world…You can understand why [this] kind of thinking [is] not helping.”
Schultz stopped short of expressing any doubt that customers wouldn’t follow through with their orders, however. “I think what people are expecting is just to give them a little bit more space to choose the right time to disclose the announcements,” he explained. “To be a little bit more precise, if the money was not in the bank I would not freeze the slots.”
At the start of the show Airbus’s firm orders totaled 261 for the year and memoranda of understanding stood at 60 airplanes. By show’s end, the company’s 2018 firm order total stood at 354 airplanes and MOUs totaled 398.
All told, the European company announced new business for a total of 431 aircraft, 52 of which were identifications of previously anonymous customers.
Schultz expressed particular delight in the number of widebody commitments he collected, namely 42 A330neos and 25 A350 XWBs, bringing the A350 total to 75 for the year. “This is magic,” he said.
The Airbus sales boss added that low-fare carriers continue to play a particularly important role in the company’s mounting narrowbody totals. He also highlighted the 60-airplane commitment for A220s from a new planned startup in the U.S. led by JetBlue founder David Neelaman as validation of the importance of Airbus’s sales and support network to the success of the former Bombardier C Series. “Since we have taken over we can see a big push from the level of confidence if I can put it this way,” he said. “What we bring is a big organization, especially people who are operating on the single-aisle market, which is closest to the regional market. So people are feeling reassured that the support is there, that the power is there and whenever they need something—training, maintenance, whatever—there is a big machine that is already in place.”
Notwithstanding Airbus’s successes at the show, Schultz did acknowledge that it lost convincingly in the cargo sector, where Boeing sold 88 production freighters and modified cargo airplanes at the event. Mounir called the total “a big story,” given the resurgence of the cargo market.
During the show, Boeing announced orders and commitments totaled 673 airplanes, of which 145 already appeared in the backlog before the event, bringing the actual show total to 528. Mounir highlighted two new 737 Max 10 customers—Vietjet, which signed for 80, and Gol, which committed to 30. The Max 10 has now collected commitments for more than 500 units, said Mounir, who noted that Boeing has decided to specify Max 10 order totals while declining to do so for the other three Max variants because of what he called “the hype” surrounding the A321.
“I’m assuming that [Airbus] has the exact same thing; people can move between models at will,” he explained. “So we ask customers to talk about their intent at times and some of them are willing to talk about their intent right out of the gate.”
Mounir would not specify how many of the commitments for the 528 airplanes involved firm orders because, he said, the company recognizes a so-called quiet period ahead of publication of its monthly figures on orders and deliveries.