Day one of the Paris air show at Le Bourget had to belong to Airbus. After such a disappointing few years the European plane maker needed to make a big splash on home turf to prove that its recovery is firmly on track. And despite a reputation for storing up orders to unveil at air shows, the company's super salesman John Leahy still had a few tricks up his sleeve with new deals for the A380 coming from Qatar Airways and Dubai's Emirates, plus a $4.4 billion order from GECAS for 60 A320s. Indeed, the ever confident Leahy indicated this morning that he sees 280 orders being announced this week.
However, the real highlight of the day came from US Airways, which came through with an order valued at over $8 billion. The contract, which includes 60 narrow body A320s, 10 A330s and crucially 22 A350s, will have been inked with some substantial discounts from Airbus but they will have been worth every penny. The value of not losing a major customer to the Boeing 787 'Dreamliner' cannot be underestimated both in terms of morale and public relations value. In an interview with CNBC Europe, US Airway's Andrew Nocella, who was at the show to sign the deal, said that the while it had been a close contest, the overall package on offer from the Europeans had been superior.
One area that Mr. Nocella didn't have any choice, however, was in the type of engines he would be able to put on his new A350s. That's because, at present, Rolls Royce is the only power-plant manufacturer to commit to the airplane. Airbus is insisting on new engines for the jet with John Leahy saying today that the A350XWB is not simply a 'me too' version of the B787. Consequently, GE has yet to commit to the substantial cost of development, however, Scott Donnelly, the CEO of GE Aviation told CNBC that he will be meeting Airbus CEO Louis Gallois later this week and remains hopeful that some kind of a deal can be reached.
Boeing has so far seemed ready to cede the limelight to its rival. This, however, won't last for long and the show is already buzzing with speculation that Tuesday could see the Americans unveil a giant order from leasing company ILFC for the it's 787. Tune in to CNBC to find out all of the details!