Airbus, Boeing vie for almost $21B of orders at show

Delta Air Lines Inc. is poised to kick off the Farnborough International Airshow with orders for Boeing Co. and Airbus SE jets as sales teams for the rival planemakers race to wrap up deals worth at least $21 billion ahead of the industry’s largest trade expo.

The event outside of London marks the first large-scale gathering of industry leaders in three years and will serve to showcase billions of dollars in aircraft transactions.

It will also provide a measure of the global aviation industry’s recovery from a pandemic that flattened international travel, and serve as an update on logistics meltdowns and labor shortages that have hampered manufacturers’ efforts to speed up work in their factories. Held as the UK issues an extreme heat warning, sustainability will also be a big topic.

After years of negotiations, Delta is expected to announce orders and commitments for as many as 130 of Boeing’s 737 Max 10 jetliners, providing an endorsement for the final and largest member of the narrow-body jet family, according to people familiar with its plans. Atlanta-based Delta is also preparing to order a dozen of Airbus’s A220 jets, topping up an earlier deal.

A purchase order for 130 737 Max 10 jets and 12 A220s would be valued at around $6.7 billion, according to figures from leading aircraft appraiser Avitas.

Airbus may close a $10 billion-plus deal for about 30 A330neo wide-body jets with Malaysia Airlines. Bloomberg News reported earlier this month that the European planemaker was leading a race against Boeing with the Southeast Asian carrier. Airbus could also seal orders for as many as 60 A220 jets from LOT Polish Airlines SA.

Germany’s Condor Flugdienst GmbH, meanwhile, is in discussions with Airbus for as many as 40 A320neo family planes that could wrap up as soon as this week, some of the people said, asking not to be identified because the discussions are confidential.

Airbus said that it doesn’t comment on speculation. “We are always in contact with existing and potential customers. Any discussions which may or may not be happening remain confidential,” it said in a statement. Condor declined to comment.

Other orders are still being negotiated down to the wire with airlines seeking to haggle with both manufacturers to secure the best terms. Jet Airways India Ltd., which is preparing to return to the skies, is still deciding between Airbus A320neo and A220 planes as well as Boeing’s 737 Max or Embraer SA jets, people familiar have said.

“We are in an advanced stage of discussions with lessors and OEMs for aircraft,” a Jet Airways spokesperson said. “We are studying all possibilities to find the one that works best for us.”

Morocco’s Royal Air Maroc is also tossing up between Airbus and Boeing models to replace some of its aging 737s. A representative Royal Air Maroc didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment outside of normal business hours.

Announcements at the show may help Boeing boost its order book and restore its traditional balance with Airbus. The European planemaker has grown its heft in the past decade to conquer close to 70 percent of the narrow-body segment, by far the most widely used aircraft category.

Boeing is battling on multiple fronts, from quality issues with its 787 Dreamliner to questions over the regulatory approval of its Max 10 aircraft and the need to book sales of the 737 Max after a lengthy grounding following two fatal crashes.

However Airbus is currently struggling to ramp up jet production even as it aims to produce as many as 75 A320neo series jets a month by 2025. Chief Executive Officer Guillaume Faury said last month that by the end of May, the company had 20 so-called gliders, or fully built aircraft without engines, that were unable to be shipped.

In a break with precedent, some customers haven’t waited for the UK event to make banner announcements. Earlier this month, China’s largest carriers unveiled a blockbuster Airbus sale of around 290 A320neo jets worth $37 billion.