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Airbus heading back to number 1 in deliveries: CEO

Fabrice Brégier, the president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Airbus, has told CNBC that the European aircraft maker will overtake its arch-rival, Boeing, in a few years' time and be back at the number one slot in terms of aircraft deliveries.

Brégier told CNBC: "In a few years, when we ramp up production of the A350, I'm pretty convinced that we will be back number one in deliveries, and as you have seen, in orders we run the show."

Airbus on Monday posted an industry record of 1,619 new airplane orders in 2013 with a production backlog of almost nine years.

(Read more: This will be our biggest market by far: Airbus)

The European planemaker reclaimed the top spot in commercial orders from Boeing after repeatedly revising up its targets last year, and aircraft deliveries in 2013 were up for the 12th year in a row. However, the firm lost the delivery contest to its rival despite an internal record of 626 deliveries.

After adjusting for cancellations, Airbus total net orders rose 80 percent from the previous year to 1,503 aircraft. Boeing closed the year with 1,531 gross orders, 1,355 net orders and a record total of 648 deliveries. It remained the world's largest planemaker but lost the race for orders.

Airbus said it ended 2013 with an industry-wide record backlog of 5,559 aircraft worth $809 billion at list prices. Boeing's backlog stood at 5,080 aircraft.

(Read more: Airbus dealt a blow as flydubai commits to Boeing)

The rise of 80 percent in orders was unsustainable, Brégier told CNBC, although the large backlog was something to be welcomed. "We had a record year in 2013 with 1,619 orders," he said. "It means that it's 2.5 times what we delivered and we cannot continue at this level. What I expect in 2014 is that the book-to-bill ratio will still be above one, and so we will continue to increase our backlog. This is fantastic."

This is some welcome relief for Airbus after 2013 saw Boeing arguably dominate the Paris and Dubai Air shows in June and November respectively, with the company's Dreamliner aircraft fending off the new Airbus A350 and the 777X becoming a popular choice in Dubai. There was still good news from both air shows, especially the news at Dubai that Emirates put in a large order for the A380 double-decker aircraft, which put that program on a much firmer footing.

(Read more: Boeing's most famous models)

Fabrice Bregier, chief executive officer of Airbus
Akio Kon | Bloomberg via Getty Images
Fabrice Bregier, chief executive officer of Airbus

Elsewhere in its aircraft line, Airbus said it saw enough demand in the market to increase production of the new A320neo model, once it has completed a transition to 42 a month in 2018. Depending on demand, it could boost output of the existing A320neo even earlier than that.

While demand is growing for aircraft in Asia and the Middle East, Brégier said that the traditional European and U.S. markets were still important. "We should not discard Europe and America, because we are not looking for big growth but we are looking for replacing their old fleets with fuel burn very efficient aircraft like the A350 or the A320neo," he said.

"This is the reason why we have decided a year ago to invest in a final assembly line of the A320 in Mobile, Alabama, because we want to be seen as supporting from America the deliveries of the A320."

Despite the flight launch of the A350 in Paris in June, the aircraft still remained a challenge, Airbus said, although the development was still on track. Airbus plans to deliver the first aircraft to Qatar Airways by the end of this year, and will produce 10 A350s a month by the end of 2018. Airbus' A350, its answer to Boeing's Dreamliner, is marked by a caution following the series of faults that its rival's aircraft has faced since its launch.

"Regarding the A350, we plan to deliver a little bit more than 100 aircraft in 2018, so it will take about four years and this is normal as we started much after our competitor," Brégier said.

He added: "We have booked 240 orders. This is the most successful longrange in the world; as simple as that."

Airbus also increased the average list prices of its aircraft by 2.6 percent across the product line, effective as of New Year's Day 2014.

Regarding the infamous battle between Airbus and Boeing, Brégier said: "My problem is not just to be compared to somebody else, it's to make sure that I grow profitably. And in 2013, I grew profitably and I will continue to do so in the coming years. I have a backlog of 5,500 aircraft."

(Read more: Airbus in landmark jet order with Japan Airlines)

Reuters contributed to this report.

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