Boeing (BA.N) unveiled a new version of its best-selling 737 aircraft on Monday, injecting life into a faltering civil aviation market as French President Emmanuel Macron flew in to open the world’s biggest airshow in Paris.
After years of booming orders driven by increased air travel and more fuel-efficient planes, passenger jet manufacturers are bracing for a slowdown in demand while they focus on meeting tight delivery schedules and ambitious production targets.
In a sign of their more modest expectations, some companies have cut back on staffing and catering at this year’s Paris Airshow and made less space available for the media.
But Boeing generated a burst of activity on the opening day by launching the 737 MAX 10 to plug a gap in its portfolio at the top end of the market for single-aisle jets, following runaway sales of the rival Airbus (AIR.PA) A321neo.
The U.S. planemaker said it had more than 240 orders and commitments from at least 10 customers for the new 737, which can carry up to 230 people in a single-class configuration.
“Many airports are running out of capacity and for those airports this is a perfect aircraft,” said Ajay Singh, the chairman of low-cost Indian airline SpiceJet (SPJT.BO), as his company signed a provisional deal to buy 40 MAX 10s.
However, Airbus immediately hit back with an order for 100 of its popular A320neo planes from leasing firm GECAS, as well as a deal for 12 A321neos with Air Lease Corporation.
Airbus sales chief John Leahy brushed off the latest Boeing challenge saying much of the interest in the MAX 10 was from existing Boeing customers switching orders from other models.
Providing more reassurance for planemakers, Qatar Airways said it was sticking with plans to increase its fleet and routes, despite a diplomatic rift with four Arab nations which have closed their airspace to the company.