That was right up until Airbus sprung its surprise package, as Cathay Pacific gave the A350-1000's naysayers a moment to reflect as it catapulted itself into prime position on the programme.
Cathay's credibility turns the airline into a much-needed ally for the redesigned -1000, the revamp of which - unveiled a year ago at the Paris air show - drew sharp criticism from the Middle Eastern customers who had signed up to its predecessor.
Barbed comments from the Gulf and a dearth of orders, in part linked to a two-year postponement to the development schedule, hardly helped support Airbus's conviction that its overhaul decision had been a good one.
But the Cathay agreement puts Airbus back on the offensive and sales supremo John Leahy insisted, in a dry-as-a-desert comment at Farnborough, that the airframer would build that "less capable" version for any customers who still wanted it.
His boss, Fabrice Brégier, also issued a defiant statement that the all-new aircraft would outperform current competitors and "any future derivatives", lobbing a provocative challenge at Boeing, which - amid the flurry of Max dealing - talked up the proposed 787-10X while keeping everyone guessing over the timetable of the 777X, even as prospective customers urged the US airframer not to dawdle on the decision. All of this means it is probably still too early to declare "game on" for the big-twin race.
The building momentum of the 787, particularly now that it is in service, is gradually turning up the pressure on Airbus, which warmed up its venerable A330 with a range increase, although the changes were more modest than Leahy might have wanted after his surprise - and ultimately premature - declaration earlier this year that the type might evolve sharklet wing-tips.
Max declarations, and the 787's display, helped to lift Boeing's profile at the show, even if it didn't stir up a whirlwind, while Airbus managed to avoid being left out in the rain. Farnborough week, then, pretty much reflected the weather: not particularly hot, fairly humdrum, with spells of brightness. Anyone feel brave enough to venture a forecast for Paris?
(This article first appeared as the main leading article in the 17 July issue of Flight International