Airbus's chief salesman John Leahy expects the industry's extremely sluggish order pace to pick up as 2009 progresses, but is pessimistic about achieving the previously stated target of 300-400 orders for the full year.
The airframer has booked just 30 gross orders during the first four months of this year and Leahy concedes that "if Tom [Enders] would let me, I'd go for a lower number [than 300 orders] but I've got my target set so I've got to figure out how to get there".
The sales pace during the first third of 2009 would suggest that Airbus could struggle to reach three digits by year-end, but Leahy says he thinks that "the rate is going to pick back up" and Airbus will exceed 100 orders.
However, he adds that "if you had to bet today, you'd probably bet on a lower number than 300".
Leahy says that with both Airbus and Boeing having huge backlogs "the important thing is not how many orders we book this year, but to keep the assembly lines running smoothly through 2009 and 2010".
He says that so far the reality of the situation in terms of cancellations is not as bad as some observers claim: "If you look at cancellations as a percentage of the backlog it really isn't that bad. You've seen some reschedulings, but you don't see that many cancellations despite the headlines from people with their own vested interests saying the sky is falling in."