London: Plane makers are riding high on surging demand that has pushed orders well over $100 billion (over Rs4 trillion) a year, but the Paris Air Show, which opens on Monday, could reveal that a slowdown looms.
Surprisingly weak recent airline traffic figures and rising calls for stricter environmental controls pose threats to an airliner sector coming off its strongest two years in history.
Brokerage analysts say that the world’s oldest and largest air show will likely see deals for more than 300 planes worth $30 billion, but that is down sharply from $50 billion at the last Paris show.
The Boeing Co. heads into the show with 175 planes already booked for unidentified customers. Analysts say Emirates Group, Qantas Airways Ltd subsidiary Jetstar Asia Airways Pte. Ltd and India’s Kingfisher Airlines Ltd are among those expected to announce deals.
US Airways Inc. had indicated it wanted the Airbus A350, but is tipped by some analysts to be ready to switch to Boeing’s hot-selling 787 instead.
Singapore Airlines was rolled out as the launch customer for the revamped Airbus A350 XWB (extra wide body) a year ago, but has yet to firm up the deal. If such deals do not come through, Paris will go down as the biggest marker yet of a looming slowdown.
That would be especially painful for the France-based Airbus S.A.S., which enters the air show playing catch-up as US rival Boeing has stormed ahead in new orders this year.
Airbus’ A350 XWB, a $10 billion project, has fallen five years behind the Boeing 787, due next year. The company will be under pressure to serve up some major A350 orders at the air show and to assure customers that it can stick to its 2013 target for delivery.
The urgency contrasts with the jubilation at Paris for Airbus just four years ago, when its sales had topped Boeing after 30 years. The toothy grin of chief executive Noel Forgeard was the expression of a man at the top of his game and Airbus looked set for a long reign.
By the Paris show two years ago, Forgeard had gone and the company’s fortunes were turning, symbolized by the A380 superjumbo, which for all its innovativeness was proving a nightmare to assemble.
At Paris this time, Airbus is expected to confirm Singapore Airlines will get the first A380 on time by the end of the year.
An increasingly international set of aerospace players vie for attention at Paris, with both Russia and China less than a year from first flights for new regional jets that are seen as major advances for their industries—Russia’s Superjet 100 and China’s ARJ21.
Embraer S.A. enters the show with a bold idea—that Brazil, not the US or Europe, will build the world’s next major military transport plane. The proposed Embraer C-390 typifies the growing globalization in aerospace, which Paris will also reflect, with some 150 countries represented, including debuts from Australia, Libya and Mexico.