Monday 17 January 2011 8:43 pm

Airbus beats Boeing in new plane orders

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EUROPEAN planemaker Airbus scored a surprise victory in the annual orders race against Boeing and celebrated the 10,000th plane sale in its 40-year history with a $5bn (£3.15bn) order from Virgin America. A last-minute surge pushed Airbus past its US rival for a third year as it held onto a net order market share of 52 per cent in the face of a resurgent Boeing, which was hit by cancellations in 2009 due to delays to its 787 Dreamliner. EADS subsidiary Airbus said it had sold 644 planes worth over $84bn at list prices in 2010, beating Boeing’s total of 625 after a flood of 200 orders in December and demonstrating what it called a robust recovery in emerging markets and the low-fare sector. “These figures show the economy is improving. We have dodged the bullet on a double-dip recession. Aviation is growing again because of Asia, low-cost carriers and emerging markets,” Airbus sales chief John Leahy said yesterday. “The only negative on the horizon is the fuel price.” Airbus’s late spree included the first firm purchase of a revamped A320 passenger jet, the A320neo, by Richard Branson’s California-based low-cost airline Virgin America. The British entrepreneur, on crutches after a skiing injury, staged a signing ceremony with Airbus executives, although the actual deal was concluded in secrecy at the end of December. Last week Airbus announced the world’s largest plane order by volume from India’s IndiGo, including 150 new model A320 jets, but the contract should be finalised in 2011. Virgin America’s order is for 60 Airbus A320 jets including 30 A320neo aircraft with newer engines.