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Boeing, Airbus end year with strong finish

Both companies have won orders for more than 1,200 planes this year, with most coming from carriers in Asia, which has been expanding and upgrading their fleets.
/ Source: The Associated Press

At the start of 2007, industry observers figured there was little to no chance airlines would treat Boeing Co. and Airbus SAS to the same order frenzy the jet makers had enjoyed the previous two years.

But both companies have proved the doubters wrong by each winning orders for more than 1,200 planes this year, with most coming from carriers in Asia, the Middle East and Europe, which have been expanding and upgrading their fleets.

Boeing, which had already surpassed a company order record it set last year, on Thursday added 67 planes to its final order update for 2007, boosting its total to 1,213.

Airbus SAS is expected to come out ahead, having logged 1,204 orders as of the end of November, the latest update available and well above its own record of 1,111 orders set two years ago. The Toulouse, France-based company is set to release its 2007 order total in mid-January.

Analysts, trade groups and executives at both companies have said they expect sales to slow down a bit next year, in large part because of high fuel prices and the credit crunch that's slowing the U.S. economy.

The International Air Transport Association is projecting airlines worldwide will post a $5.6 billion profit in 2007 — their first year in the black since before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks sparked a global downturn in air travel.

Airlines are expected to do well again next year, but the association recently slashed its 2008 industry profit forecast to $5 billion, down from $7.8 billion.

"We're concerned that consumer confidence is falling ... in the face of a drop in housing prices and the credit crunch. That affects both consumers who buy leisure travel and businesses and corporations that buy business travel," said Steve Lott, a spokesman in IATA's North American office.

Boeing's latest orders include 31 737s that Australia's Qantas Airways Ltd. tacked on to a previous order for 38 of the single-aisle jets.

Other orders booked in the past week came from the Irish airplane leasing company AWAS, which also signed up for 31 737s; Delta Air Lines, which ordered two widebody 777s; and unidentified customers who ordered three midsize 787s.

Boeing's year-to-date order total stretches through Dec. 18. The company said its next order update will be announced in early January.