British Queen celebrates


European planemaker Airbus and US rival Boeing went head to head at the Farnborough air show, which opened Monday facing Brexit headwinds and shut early due to heavy rain.

Airbus, which traditionally fights US rival Boeing for blockbuster order announcements at Farnborough, southwest of London, revealed a $4.4-billion (3.9-billion-euro) firm order from Virgin Atlantic for twelve wide-bodied Airbus A350-1000 jets.

The carrier has agreed to buy eight of the aircraft for deliveries starting in 2019, and four new aircraft from Air Lease Corporation (ALC).

Airbus added that Vietnam's Jetstar Pacific Airlines has indicated its intention to purchase 10 single-aisle A320ceo aircraft worth $980 million.

It added that ALC had also placed a firm order for three long-haul A350-900s jets and one medium-haul A321.



For its part, Boeing announced that China's Donghai Airlines intended to buy 30 jets -- comprising 25 medium-haul 737 Max 8s and five long-haul 787-9 Dreamliners -- together worth more than $4.0 billion.

Boeing also revealed that Chinese peer Xiamen Airlines had also indicated its interest in 30 of its single-aisle twin engine 737 MAX 200 planes worth $3.4 billion.

The week-long Farnborough show takes place this year amid global turbulence from Britain's shock EU exit referendum.

However, the biennial event was for shut early on Monday due to heavy downpours during the early afternoon.

Prime Minister David Cameron, attending the opening, hailed the Airbus order, citing the fact that the European planemaker's wings are built in Britain, while engines come from Rolls-Royce.

Ahead of Farnborough, some airlines had posted profit warnings linked to expected fallout from the June 23 referendum.

Fred Cromer, president of Bombardier's commercial aircraft division, told AFP on the sidelines of the show that he did not expect Brexit to have an impact on the Canadian firm, and highlighted that the broader sector enjoys consistent and solid growth in passenger traffic.

- No long-term Brexit impact -

Bombardier itself hopes to win fresh orders for its fuel-efficient C Series jetliner at Farnborough as it looks to challenge the dominance of Airbus and Boeing in medium-range, single-aisle aircraft.

"I think, like everybody else, that this is going to evolve over time," Cromer told AFP, when asked about the Brexit impact.

"The one statistic I would point to, in terms of aviation, is the passenger growth long term. And it is a very stable year-over-year passenger growth number in that 3.0-4.0 percent range, depending on the year with some volatility.

"I think our industry is always facing short-term growth issues -- but long-term passenger demand is fuelling the orders that you see today and that we expect to come.

"So I wouldn't expect it (Brexit) to have an impact on us -- medium term or long term."

Cromer added that Bombardier's long-delayed C Series jet -- whose first customer Swiss flies commercially for the first time on Friday between Zurich and Paris -- is gaining "momentum" after winning recent key orders from Air Canada and Delta Airlines.

"If you think about all the milestones along the way, we are sort of getting this momentum, and then in the first half of this year we obviously announced the large orders for both Air Canada and Delta, which has in our view relaunched the programme and gained the industry attention that we were looking for," Cromer added.

"So we feel very good about where we are, going into the show with all of this momentum, and the increased interest in the aircraft is phenomenal."

Boeing meanwhile forecast Monday that passenger traffic would grow by an average 4.8 percent over the next 20 years, while Airbus put the figure at 4.5 percent.

The industry is dogged by a record backlog for orders of planes, which -- alongside weaker demand from airlines -- sent orders tumbling almost a third last year.afp