Airbus, Boeing battle over long-haul jets heats up

Mon Jun 3, 2013 12:46pm EDT
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By Siva Govindasamy

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - The battle between Airbus EAD.PA and Boeing (BA.N: Quote) over their next-generation of long-haul jets is heating up, with a string of major airlines flagging plans on Monday to place multi-billion dollar orders.

Germany's Lufthansa (LHAG.DE: Quote), Japan Airlines (9201.T: Quote) and Malaysia Airlines MASM.KL were among carriers at the International Air Transport Association's (IATA) annual general meeting to say they were sizing up Airbus's new A350 widebody jets and Boeing's rival 787 Dreamliner and revamped 777 models.

Airbus and Boeing compete for the lion's share of a jet market estimated at $100 billion a year. While recent years have seen them battling over smaller Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 aircraft, interest in larger fuel-efficient planes is on the rise, suggesting airlines are betting on an upturn in the global economy and therefore their premium and long-haul markets.

IATA, the airline trade body, on Monday hiked its 2013 industry profit forecast by 20 percent to $12.7 billion, encouraged by cost cutting and lower oil prices.

Airline executives at the IATA meeting in Cape Town, South Africa, said the stage was set for a slew of orders at the Paris Airshow later this month, and a sustained campaign by Europe's Airbus and U.S. rival Boeing to win more customers.

The executives told Reuters they had been receiving briefings on Boeing's proposed 787-10X and the 777X, the latest variants of both aircraft.

Industry sources say the 787-10X could be launched in Paris and the 777X later this year, but caution this is dependent on delicate negotiations with potential buyers and production plans. A launch of the stretched 787-10X would imply an increase in Boeing's plans to make 10 Dreamliners a month from end-2013.

Airbus, meanwhile, is pushing the A350-1000, the largest of three variants, as an alternative to the popular 777-300ER and has gained traction over the last year with several high profile buyers such as Cathay Pacific (0293.HK: Quote).   Continued...

Boeing flags flutter as an Airbus A380, the world's largest jetliner, takes part in a flying display during the 49th Paris Air Show at the Le Bourget airport near Paris June 25, 2011. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes