Boeing won a key battle, if not the war, at this year's Paris air show. Airbus marked its 50th anniversary by disclosing more business than its Seattle rival, but the event will ultimately be remembered for a show-stopping order from IAG that is set to revive the grounded 737 Max programme.
The timing, scope and magnitude of the IAG commitment – and the fact it is a new customer for the type – clearly has wider implications for the success of the programme beyond the week in Le Bourget. But aside from the big statement that this order represented, the show was – as previously anticipated, given the fallout and continued contrition after the fatal crashes of the Max – a quiet one for order activity at Boeing. IAG's letter of intent for 200 aircraft covers the lion’s share of the 232 commitments it secured at the show.
Airbus had declared 363 fresh commitments at the end of the show – of which, it says, 149 were firm orders – and 352 order conversions. While tallying these firm orders with the individual announcements is not always straightforward, the European manufacturer undoubtedly took the largest share of business.
There emerged a string of customers for the A321XLR that Airbus launched at the show. But, significantly, the airframer also secured 85 commitments for the A220, the first business for the former CSeries programme since the firming in December of last year's banner orders from JetBlue Airways and David Neeleman’s planned US start-up.
On the regional side it was a big show for ATR – securing a commitment for over 100 aircraft from lessor NAC and deals to support its planned launch of short take-off and landing version of the ATR 42-600. Embraer meanwhile booked business for 78 aircraft at the show.
Lower levels of business from the big-two airframers meant the show was one of the quietest in recent years for commercial aircraft order commitments. Preliminary analysis shows 861 aircraft covered by these commitments, be they firm orders, letters of intent, options or the revealing of previously undisclosed customers.
IAG was the stand-out customer at the show. The European airline group's commitments reached 228 aircraft, factoring in its A321XLR deal. Aircraft lessors NAC and Air Lease also committed to more than 100 aircraft each, while Saudia signed for up to 65 aircraft. But much of the other business was for smaller order chunks. A321XLR commitments comprised a mix of new orders and conversions rather than pure new business.
Last year at Farnborough, much of the business was attributed to undisclosed customers – covering preliminary deals for more than 400 aircraft. That was largely believed to reflect Chinese business, in part because of reluctance to publicise deals amid growing China-US trade tensions.
Those tensions have since deepened, so it is perhaps notable that at Paris this year there were no aircraft orders from Chinese carriers and no undisclosed customer announcements from either manufacturer.