Image: An Airbus A380 takes off at the Paris air show
Reuters
An Airbus A380 takes off in Paris. The biggest orders for Airbus planes this week have come from the fast-growing countries in Asia and the Middle East.
By
updated 6/23/2011 4:29:35 PM ET 2011-06-23T20:29:35

Airbus is trouncing Boeing in the race to be the world's biggest plane maker, claiming over $72 billion dollars worth of orders and commitments at the Paris Air Show, where the popularity of its new fuel-efficient jets twice broke records for the largest order ever.

Airbus' success cast a long shadow over Chicago-based Boeing, which recorded only $22 billion in orders and commitments, and raised questions over the U.S. planemaker's ability to compete in a market dominated by concerns over high fuel prices.

Airbus CEO Tom Enders and AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes signed off Thursday on an $18.5 billion order for 200 of Airbus' new A320neo aircraft, which has proven to be the star of the aviation industry's premier event.

The order is the largest ever, eclipsing the previous record set just Wednesday by another A320neo customer, Asian carrier IndiGo. Airlines often negotiate discounts on large deals.

The recipe to Airbus' gains over Boeing is deceptively simple. It modified its existing workhorse jet, the A320, with improved engines and modified wingtips to make it allegedly 15 percent more fuel-efficient than Boeing's 737.

The plane will only start delivering in 2015 but Airbus is using it now to cash in on airlines' need to reduce sky-high fuel costs and cut carbon dioxide emissions.

Airbus' Enders said the A320neo was now "by far the best-selling airliner in the history of commercial aviation."

The company has over 1,000 orders or commitments for the plane, including 667 during the air show's first four days.

Airbus' success increases the pressure on its U.S. rival to respond to the challenge with either a revamped version of its own 737 or an entirely new aircraft. Boeing says it will make that decision in the coming months.

It played down the orders rivalry, saying it doesn't keep deals in reserve just to announce them at air shows.

It recorded orders and commitments for 142 aircraft worth $22 billion at catalog prices during the show. That includes a commitment from an undisclosed customer for it's hulking new 747-8 Intercontinentals worth $4.7 billion.

At this pace, Airbus looks likely to retain its position as industry leader for a fourth year running. Last year, it took in orders for 574 new aircraft worth $74 billion at list prices, more than Boeing's 530.

The biggest orders for Airbus planes this week have come from the fast-growing countries in Asia and the Middle East.

Besides AirAsia and IndiGo, Airbus also nabbed orders and commitments from the U.S. airline JetBlue and Garuda of Indonesia.

Boeing's highlights included a $1.7 billion order for 6 777 long-haul aircraft from Qatar Airways and 10 737s from Malaysian Airlines.

Though Airbus was ending the show with a bang, it had started off with a series of embarrassing gaffes before the opening.

Its A380 double decker superjumbo was briefly grounded after it clipped a wingtip while maneuvering on a taxiway at the Le Bourget airport outside Paris, where the air show is held every two years.

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Airbus' long-overdue and over-budget military transporter, the A400M, was unable to perform a scheduled demonstration at the show because of what Airbus called a minor gearbox problem.

And the Airbus A350 long-range widebody had a new disappointment with the announcement that two versions of the jet would be delayed by about two years, so that the jet's exclusive engine supplier Rolls Royce can develop a higher powered motor for the stretched version of the aircraft, something Airbus said customers had demanded.

Although deals are typically announced during the first four days, before the opening to the general public on Friday, the planemakers held out hope for some last-minute surprises, possibly more orders.

"The show's not over yet," said Airbus CEO Enders.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: Paris Air Show 2011

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  1. A Fouga aerobatic plane performs in front of the moon during a demonstration flight at the 49th Paris Air Show at Le Bourget airport, east of Paris, on Saturday, June 25. (Francois Mori / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A visitor checks out the cargo bay of the Boeing 747-8F that flew from Everett, Wash., to Le Bourget. It was the first transatlantic flight of an aircraft powered by a sustainable biofuel mix. (Didier Saulnier / Zuma Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Visitors walk among the ballast water tanks of the Airbus A380 during a visit inside the test aircraft used for demonstration flights at the 49th Paris Air Show on June 25. (Francois Mori / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. A Dassault Rafale fighter takes part in a flying display during on June 25. (Gonzalo Fuentes / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Onlookers watch an Airbus A380 on a demonstration flight during the first public day at the Paris Air Show on June 24. (Francois Mori / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Alphajet planes from the Patrouille de France take part in a flying display during the 49th Paris Air Show on June 24. (Gonzalo Fuentes / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Onlookers gather between aircraft during the first day of the 49th Paris Air Show on June 24. (Francois Mori / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. A Eurofighter Typhoon flies during a demonstration on June 23. The show is expected to be visited by 138,000 industry visitors and 200,000 members of the general public. (Etienne Laurent / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. An Airbus A380 takes off on a demonstration flight as a Boeing 787 waits in the foreground at the Paris Air Show 2011 on Thursday. (Etienne Laurent / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Lt. Col Chad Rauls, left, Captain Brandon Brown, center, and Captain Drew Marino, of U.S. Air Force 15th Airlift Squadron at Charleston AFB, South Carolina, pilot a Boeing C-17 Globemaster III during a demonstration flight. (Francois Mori / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. The interior of a Boeing C-17 Globemaster III of the U.S. Air Force's 15th Airlift Squadron at Charleston AFB, South Carolina, is empty for a demonstration flight at the 49th Paris Air Show.. (Francois Mori / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Pilot Hugues Duval in his twin-engined "Cri-Cri", one of the smallest planes in the world, is overshadowed by the Boeing 747-8FA during the 49th Paris Air Show at the Le Bourget airport near Paris on Wednesday, June 22. Duval holds the world speed record for an electrically powered aircraft after reaching the top speed of 262 km/h. (Pascal Rossignol / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. A F16 fighter jet takes part in a flying display during the 49th Paris Air Show at the Le Bourget airport near Paris on Wednesday. (Pascal Rossignol / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. A Korean Air Airbus A380 lands in background after a demonstration flight at the 49th Paris Air Show at le Bourget airport, east of Paris, Tuesday June 21, 2011. (AP Photo/Francois Mori) (Francois Mori / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (second from the left) visits the space dedicated to Russia at the Paris International Air Show on June 21 at the Le Bourget airport near Paris. (Pierre Verdy / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. The Eurocopter X3 Hybrid helicopter performs its demonstration flight at the 49th Paris Air Show at Le Bourget airport, east of Paris on Wednesday. (Francois Mori / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. France's President Nicolas Sarkozy, left, and Defense minister Gerard Longuet attend the flight demonstrations on the opening day of the Paris Air Show at Le Bourget, near Paris, June 20, 2011. (Reuters) (Pool / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Aerial view taken from an Eurocopter helicopter shows the tarmac with the planes of the Bourget Airport during the first day of the International Paris Air Show on June 20. The air show is expected to be visited by 138,000 professional visitors and 200,000 general public visitors. (Pierre Verdy / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. A Lockheed Martin F16 Fighting Falcon performs its demonstration flight, on the first day of the Paris air show, at Le Bourget airport on June 20. (Francois Mori / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. A Dassault 'Rafale' pilote salutes the crowd after a flight demonstration at the Paris Air Show 2011 at Le Bourget, Paris on June 20. According to the organizers, the trade show from 20 to 26 June will feature 28 international pavilions, 140 aircraft including an appearance by the solar aircraft 'Solar Impulse' and the opportunity to visit the air and space museum. (Etienne Laurent / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Visitors attend the first day of the rain-soaked 49th Paris Air Show at the Le Bourget airport near Paris on June 20. (Pascal Rossignol / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. A Dassault Rafale fighter jet takes part in a flying display during the 49th Paris Air Show at the Le Bourget airport near Paris June 22, 2011. (Pascal Rossignol / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. The demonstration version of the Airbus A 380 sits on the tarmac of the Bourget Airport, which clipped a structure damaging the right wing the day before the show's opening on June 20. (Pierre Verdy / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Red carpets can be seen from above at the 49th Paris Air Show at Le Bourget airport on June 20. (Pascal Rossignol / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Rockets by the European Space Agency are displayed at the Paris Air Show, in Paris, France, on June 19. According to the organizers, the trade show from June 20-26 will feature 28 international pavilions, 140 aircraft including an exceptional appearance by the solar aircraft 'Solar Impulse', jobs and training area, an 'Alternative Aviation Fuels' village and the opportunity to visit the air and space museum. The International Paris Air Show at Le Bourget is expected to be visited by 138,000 professional visitors and 200,000 general public visitors. (Etienne Laurent / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. The new Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental jetliner lands at Le Bourget airport on the eve of the Paris Air Show June 19. The elongated Intercontinental is the world's longest passenger aircraft and has 51 more seats than a standard 747. (Pascal Rossignol / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. The damaged right-hand wing-tip of an Airbus A380, the world's largest jetliner, with a wingspan of almost 80 meters, is seen on the tarmac on the eve of the opening of the Paris Air Show in Le Bourget, near Paris, June 19. Airbus said on Sunday said it was pulling one of its flagship double-decker A380s out of a flying display at the Paris Air Show, compounding a series of embarrassing hiccups for the EADS unit at this year's big-ticket industry event. (Stringer/france / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. A crew member of a French A400M military aircraft looks out of his window as his plane moves into a static display on the eve of the Paris Air Show at Le Bourget airport near Paris June 19. The plane has been pulled from a flight display because of a gearbox problem. (Pascal Rossignol / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. A worker makes final preparations for a display of the GEnx engine by General Electric, at Paris Air Show, June 19. (Michel Euler / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. A Beriev 202 firefighting airplane releases water during a flying display two days before the opening of the 49th Paris Air Show at the Le Bourget airport near Paris, June 18. (Pascal Rossignol / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. Workers carry a "Barak" sea-to-air missile on a static display two days before the opening of the 49th Paris Air Show at Le Bourget airport near Paris, June 18. (Pascal Rossignol / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. A worker wipes an Agusta Westland 139 helicopter on display at the 49th Paris Air Show at Le Bourget airport near Paris, June 18. (Pascal Rossignol / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
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