Europe’s Airbus said on Thursday that new orders topped 1,000 aircraft in the first eight months of the year as airlines order fuel-saving models, but cancellations continued to weigh on net orders, which remain behind those of rival Boeing.
The planemaking subsidiary of Airbus sold 21 aircraft in August, a traditionally quiet month following the busy Farnborough Airshow in July, bringing its total gross orders for the year to 1,001 aircraft, monthly data showed.
Adjusting for cancellations, Airbus reported 722 net orders between January and August.
In the latest figures available for Boeing, the U.S. planemaker posted 981 gross orders between Jan. 1 and Aug. 26, or 918 orders after accounting for 63 cancellations.
Airbus says the total of 279 cancellations it has announced this year are boosted by conversions from one product to another, as airlines hop out of the current-generation A320 single-aisle family into the newer and more efficient A320neo.
It has argued Boeing will face similar pressure to convert orders when its own revamped 737 MAX approaches delivery, but some analysts have expressed concerns about the underlying level of cancellations as investors remain sensitive to any signs of weakness in recently strong demand for passenger jets.
The A320neo is being readied for its first test flight with engines from Pratt & Whitney, expected in the second half of the month.
August’s order figures included four more upgrades from the existing A320 to the A320neo from major single-aisle customer AirAsia, bringing the total number of A320 order conversions this year to 73.
Cancellations also reflect the loss of an order for 70 A350 wide-body aircraft from Emirates airline in June, though Airbus is ahead of its net order guidance for the year.
International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG) meanwhile ordered eight A350-900 aircraft, exercising an option for its Spanish subsidiary Iberia in August.
Airbus has now reached 750 orders for its next generation of long-distance aircraft, designed to compete with Boeing’s lightweight, carbon-composite 787 Dreamliner.
Separately, the head of the European Aviation Safety Agency told Reuters the A350 was on schedule to receive its safety certification by the end of September. It is due to enter service with Qatar Airways by the end of the year.
In its latest update, Airbus also said it had delivered 389 aircraft between January and August. Boeing delivered 400 between January and July and was expected to issue August deliveries with an order update later on Thursday.
Airbus is targeting around the same number of deliveries in 2014 as last year, when it delivered 626 passenger jets. It says net orders should exceed this.
Boeing is targeting 715-725 deliveries in 2014.
(Reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by Blaise Robinson and James Regan)
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