Boeing plane orders soar as airlines rebound
by Veronique Dupont Veronique Dupont – Thu Jan 6, 5:42 pm ET
NEW YORK (AFP) – US aerospace giant Boeing on Thursday said orders for commercial aircraft soared amid a "spectacular" 2010 recovery for the airline industry, but deliveries fell.
Boeing said it had orders for 530 planes in 2010, a 31 percent increase from the year before, despite problems with its new 787 Dreamliner.
The company said the jump in orders, up from 405 in 2009, came as "air carriers transition from economic recovery to expansion."
Boeing's European arch-rival Airbus is expected to publish its own annual orders tally by the end of the month. In late November, Airbus was trailing, with 388 orders compared with Boeing's 484, after European firm saw some 50 order cancellations.
"Our airline customers are doing well and it's been a good year for us at Boeing," Randy Tinseth, head of marketing for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, told AFP. "2010 in many ways was really a spectacular year."
Passenger traffic was up eight percent, cargo traffic jumped nearly 20 percent, and airlines collected higher ticket prices, while fuel prices were "within expectations," he said.
Most of Boeing's 2010 orders and deliveries were for the medium-range Next-Generation 737.
There were 486 orders for the firm's best-selling plane and 376 deliveries.
"The Next-Generation 737 set a company delivery record for the second consecutive year," Jim Albaugh, president and chief executive of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said in a statement, adding the 737 was "the industry's most in-demand airplane."
The 787 program is running three years behind schedule amid a string of production problems.
A November fire during a test flight led the company to halt all test flights while the problem was assessed and fixed.
Boeing announced a delay in the first 787 delivery to Japan's All Nippon Airways, previously scheduled for the 2011 first quarter, but has not set a new delivery schedule.
"The 787 Dreamliner continues in flight test," the Chicago-based firm said in the statement, adding that it plans to provide guidance on 2011 commercial airplane delivery when it releases year-end earnings on January 26.
Boeing said it maintains a strong order base of 3,443 unfilled commercial airplane orders.
The US giant, the world's second-biggest commercial aircraft maker after Airbus, delivered 462 planes in 2010, down from 481 the prior year.
Tinseth said the 2010 drop in deliveries was the result of ramped-down production in the face of the global economic crisis.
In 2010, Boeing announced it would ramp up production to meet strong demand.
The production rate of the Next-Generation 737 will accelerate to 35 a month in early 2010 and to 38 in the 2013 second quarter.
Production of the 777 will grow from five to seven a month in mid-2011, and to 8.3 units in the 2013 first quarter.
Boeing said the first delivery of its new jumbo cargo plane, the 747-8 Freighter, which also has seen a number of delays, is now set for the middle of this year.
The passenger version, the 747-8 Intercontinental, is expected to be delivered by year-end.
Still, the 2010 pace of deliveries remained far below the record 620 deliveries reached in 1999.
Though Boeing did not provide guidance on 2011 orders or deliveries, Tinseth was upbeat about the outlook for the airline industry.
"We expect 2011 to be another year of profitability for the airlines."