Airbus CEO John Leahy confirmed at the Paris Air Show that the company has the first firm commitment for its giant A380 airliner for conversion to an executive/VIP role. Leahy declined, however, to reveal the name of the buyer, saying only that he was not American or European and the airplane would be for his personal use.
Airbus chief executive Louis Gallois declared yesterday that the European consortium “is back, fully back,” from an odyssey through one of the most trying two years in its history. Any such pronouncement made a day early would no doubt have elicited a hearty belly laugh or two within the Boeing chalet.
Having promised so much and letting its A380 launch customers down so dismally with the news of serious program delays, Airbus is understandably cautious in its prognosis for the super-large airliner’s immediate future. All the talk in press briefings before the Paris Air Show concentrated on achieving “maturity” and “sustainability” for the program.
Airbus has made virtue of a necessity with its new A350XWB (extra widebody) airliner. The company admits it was outmaneuvered by Boeing with the rapid success of the rival 787 program and Airbus very much needs to prove to the market that it is offering something more than just a catch-up product.
Airbus will launch the A350 airliner in September regardless of whether the transatlantic trade dispute over airliner subsidies has been settled by then. Airbus chief executive and EADS co-CEO Noël Forgeard yesterday admitted that the company did indeed delay the launch of the A350 to allow the subsidy negotiations between the European Union and the U.S. to advance further.
Airbus statistics appear to support Boeing’s contentions that the average size of airliners is going to shrink. Smaller aircraft carry lower sticker prices and Airbus figures suggest Boeing’s backlog comprises aircraft with fewer seats and lower average values than those in the Airbus order book. The U.S.
Recent changes to the proposed Airbus A350 have rendered the planned A330 variant much more competitive against the Boeing 787 in the battle for the “middle of the market,” according to Airbus. The European airframer has refined the design, which now offers more seats and, consequently, lower seat-mile costs.
New Airbus boss Christian Streiff yesterday issued a firm declaration of his intent to restore the company’s market credibility by unveiling the long-awaited revamped A350, known now as the A350 XWB. Although not an industrial launch, the announcement offered the first detailed look at the airplane, Airbus’ latest answer not only to the Boeing 787s, but to the 777-200ER and -300ER.
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