LE BOURGET, France-- Boeing Co. beat Airbus SE in the annual jetliner-orders bonanza at the Paris Air Show, but both came out winners in one crucial way: Demand for both plane makers' most popular single-aisle jets remains buoyant.
Overall orders for planes have slowed recently, after a yearslong run of supercharged growth fanned by fast-growing budget carriers and cash-rich Mideast buyers. These buyers have stayed away from bigger jets, making the so-called narrowbody, or single-aisle, market the key to the industry's medium-term health.
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At the end of the show, Boeing claimed $75 billion in deals for 571 new planes. Airbus said it secured $42 billion in deals for 144 firm orders, along with 202 other looser-commitment plane agreements. That was better than many analysts had expected.
The flurry of orders and commitments secured by Boeing, the world's No. 1 plane maker, was fueled by its launch of a new narrowbody model, the 737 Max 10. Boeing got 16 customers to sign up to the new plane, including United Continental Holdings Inc. It exits the Paris show with 361 deals for the new plane.
"There is a very strong robust market for the single-aisle" aircraft, said Boeing's new chief plane salesman Ihssane Mounir in his first major event since taking the job.
Boeing said 214 of the deals for the new plane were order conversions from other models. Mr. Mounir said the conversions were partly a reflection of buyers wanting to move quickly to acquire the new plane.
Rival Airbus lagged behind with 286 single-aisle deals.
"This is a slower year for orders than previous years," John Leahy, chief plane salesman for Airbus, said.
Iranian airlines have become a relatively recent new customer base for both jet makers after global powers in 2015 lifted sanctions on the country in return for Tehran agreeing to limits on its nuclear program. Airbus on Thursday announced deals with two Iranian carriers for 73 planes, though the U.S. government still has to provide the licenses required because of American content on the planes.
Though orders get much of the attention at the air show, plane makers and investors are more focused on aircraft deliveries that correlate more closely with cash flow.
The Paris deals underscored Airbus and Boeing plans to build more of their popular single-aisle planes, both companies said.
David Joyce, president of General Electric Co.'s aviation unit, said the company would be building 800 more engines than planned in the coming three years for Airbus and Boeing to meet strong demand. It builds those engines in cooperation with France's Safran SA.
Airbus builds about 50 A320 planes a month and is on a path to producing 60 a month from mid-2019. Airbus Commercial Airplanes President Fabrice Brégier said the company would be interested in producing even more single-aisle planes if engine suppliers could boost output. Mr. Brégier said demand for the planes is high enough to increase output further. "The limiting factor is the engine availability," he said.
Boeing also said it is studying higher output, though Mr. Mounir said the company, for now, was sticking to plans to increase production from 42 narrowbody planes a month today to 57 in 2019.
There is less appetite to build more planes in the widebody market, where order volume have been soft for some time. Airbus only secured 20 widebody deals. Boeing signed deals for 56 long-range jets, mostly its Dreamliner model. The plane maker has been weighing whether to boost production of that model, too, but Mr. Mounir said it was too early to make that call now.
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(END) Dow Jones Newswires
June 22, 2017 10:52 ET (14:52 GMT)