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Airbus sales chief Leahy relishes the aviation upswing at the Farnborough Air Show
Posted by Dominic Gates
(Corrected July 24 with regard to Airbus narrowbody production rates. )
As the Farnborough Air Show winds down, Airbus sales chief John Leahy is positively gushing about the turnaround in the airplane business.
"The Show is a leading indicator of the aviation market as well as world GDP," Leahy said in an interview following his closing press conference of the show. "Activity is back. People are flying again."
"It's not just economy class traffic that's back," he said. "First and business class is back as well."
Last month in Berlin, Emirates placed a massive order for 32 A380 superjumbos. Here in London, Leahy has lifted his firm order tally from 131 jets to 261 for the year.
Exiting the Airbus media chalet after the press conference, John Leahy jumped in an SUV limousine and was in minutes dropped one row up the hill at the main Airbus chalet.
(Above, outside the EADS/Airbus chalet at Farnborough. Press photos not allowed inside.)
Inside, where multi-billion dollar deals are hammered out, a sleek modern decor, elegant orchid arrangements and white walls convey freshness and serenity.
Leahy strode briskly to a quiet room with thick white carpet and as another press interview commenced, he ordered a glass of champagne well before noon.
He felt like celebrating a commitment just prior to the closing press conference from Virgin America to buy 40 narrowbody A320s. That one wasn't a firm order, the agreement is squishily "non-binding." But still, life looks mighty good to Airbus' New York-born supersalesman.
"The Paris Air Show last year was probably one of the more downbeat shows in my 26 years at Airbus. People were depressed. Aviation was doing badly," Leahy said. "Things started turning around at the Berlin Air Show ... Now you are seeing that broadening out at this air show with the (airplane) leasing companies coming back."
Leahy got an order for 51 A320s from Steve Udvar-Hazy's new leasing company, Air
Lease Corp. and another order for 60 of them from GECAS, the aircraft leasing unit of GE.
Leahy tallies the week's orders in this video clip:
He said emerging markets are driving a new aviation boom, one not dependent on the flat markets of the U.S. and Europe, which amount to about 1 billion people, Leah said.
"The engine driving this recovery is the 5.7 billion in the rest of the world," he said.
Fully one fifth of Airbus jet production this year -- about 100 airplanes -- is going to Chinese airlines. Airbus now has a production line for A320s in China, which Leahy acknowledges has helped sales there.
"Would we have sold as many without the line (in China)?" he asked. "I don't know if we would have. It shows our partnership with Chinese industry."
He had spoken at Farnborough of making a decision this fall on a new engine for the A320, speaking always as if it were a near certainty.
With the lack of orders at the show for the new entrant in that segment, the Bombardier CSeries, and all the sales racked up by Boeing and Airbus in the narrowbody sector, does he still see a real urgency?
That question elicited a trademark jibe at Boeing, something Leahy can never resist. He said that's Boeing's way: "keep building what we've been building." It's not the Airbus way, he said.
"One of the reasons that you're not seeing orders at the show for the CSeries is that there is no case for the CSeries if we do the new engine option and Boeing does a re-engine," he said.
"If we do a re-engine, there's no business case at all," Leahy said. "That's been proven by this show."
Clearly Leahy is dead set on persuading the EADS board to move ahead with a new A320 engine and knock out the CSeries.
At the press conference Airbus chief executive Tom Enders said that because of the sales success at the Air Show, Airbus would look closely at raising narrowbody production rates as high as 38 a month and will also revise upward the year-end sales target to something above 400.
Could it go to 500?
"A lot might depend on this new engine option, on how many people want to rush in and place orders," Leahy said. "The new engine option does get a lot of airlines excited."
Jul 13 - 6:30 AM Good-bye from the 2012 Farnborough Air Show
Jul 12 - 5:47 PM Boeing, Airbus see sunny side of modest Air Show order tally
Jul 12 - 11:59 AM Big United order allows Boeing to claim a successful Air Show week
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