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Average Values of New Airliner Sales Give Conflicting Signals

 - December 12, 2006, 10:44 AM

Airbus statistics appear to support Boeing’s contentions that the average size of airliners is going to shrink. Smaller aircraft carry lower sticker prices and Airbus figures suggest Boeing’s backlog comprises aircraft with fewer seats and lower average values than those in the Airbus order book. The U.S. manufacturer’s sales ledger represents an average unit value of $94.11 million, compared with the European company’s 9.3-percent-higher $102.86 million per aircraft figure, according to Airbus chief commercial officer John Leahy.

The disparity in average values reflects 139 firm orders for the new Airbus A380 flagship, in contrast to a diminishing requirement for Boeing 747s. Another factor is perhaps the traditionally strong market for smaller single-aisle 737s, which inevitably command lower unit prices and therefore dilute overall values. Nevertheless, for 2004 Airbus  claimed a whopping 81-percent share of single-aisle orders from low-cost airlines for its competing A320 models.

For its part, Airbus has consistently argued that average aircraft size must increase if industry forecasts of greater travel demand are to be satisfied under continuing airport capacity constraints. Ironically, as indicated by Boeing’s performance early this year, it is the U.S. manufacturer that has been selling larger aircraft. While the two manufacturers essentially took an even share of the 321 jetliners with 100-plus seats ordered up to May 10 this year, the $28.1 billion value of new business has been split 55:45 in favor of Boeing, reflecting the higher average aircraft capacity–and related price–involved in new busine

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