When the Singapore Airshow takes off next Tuesday, the perennial Airbus-Boeing fight for plane orders could hinge on delays to Boeing's new 787 jumbo.
The Singapore aviation event, billed as the world's second largest in size after Paris but smaller than others such as Dubai in terms of orders, is seen as a way for planemakers to get access to the fast-growing Asia-Pacific aviation industry.
Strong domestic growth has prompted national airlines from India, China and Australia to expand their fleets and has also spurred a boom for regional low cost carriers. Eyes are on whether airlines such as Malaysia's AirAsia X and Thai Airways will pick Airbus' A350 or the 787 Dreamliner.
Boeing announced a second delay in its top-selling 787 last month, pushing first deliveries out until early 2009. Airlines have so far ordered 857 of the planes, worth $140 billion (Dh511 billion) at list prices, and some are seeking compensation for the postponement.
Boeing's problems mirrored that of rival Airbus, whose A380, the world's largest passenger jet, was delayed two years before the first delivery last October to Singapore Airlines
"It will be an interesting contest to see if the 787 delays cause any airlines to switch to Airbus," said Aviation International News senior editor Charles Alcock.
Analysts expect the Singapore event to see between $15-20 billion (Dh54.75 to Dh73 billion) in total aircraft orders. Boeing has said it will announce about $8 billion (Dh29.2 billion) worth of orders at the show.
The city-state's last air show in 2006 saw $15.2 billion (Dh55.48 billion) in plane orders.
But some are expecting airlines to be more subdued in announcing plane orders, as growth forecasts in world travel demand have been slashed this year on fears that a possible US recession will cause a global economic slowdown.
"The environment this year is not so bullish. I'd be expecting a modest sales list this time, with higher credit costs for one thing," said Peter Harbison, executive chairman of the Sydney-based Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation consultancy.
The Dubai event last November garnered nearly $100 billion (Dh365 billion) in orders for planemakers, an all-time record for air shows. But that was called a freak result due to massive expansion of Middle East airlines and the deep pockets of their oil-rich governments.
Among airlines, Garuda Indonesia is reported to be planning an order of 10 Boeing 777s worth $2 billion (Dh7.3 billion), while low cost carriers such as Singapore's Tiger Airways, Indonesia's Lion Air and Hong Kong's Oasis are also expected to make new purchases. Jimmy Lau, managing director of the Singapore Airshow, said some airlines have become cautious about announcing new orders because of the delivery delays.
He also deflected comparisons between the Singapore event and rival Hong Kong's Asian Aerospace held last September.
Asian Aerospace, organised by Reed Exhibitions, was last held in Singapore in 2006 but moved to set up a rival show in Hong Kong after falling out with the Singapore government.
The Hong Kong show, which highlighted its access to the China market, dropped the military element that features in Singapore as US companies are barred from selling weapons to China.
Top US defense contractors including Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman will be exhibiting at the Singapore event. Lockheed will showcase its F-35 fighter jet, in development but which has run into technical problems. Boeing, whose defense unit is the No. 2 Pentagon supplier, told Reuters last month that it was eyeing India and South Korea for new warplane orders, and Vietnam as a new market for its Chinook military helicopters. (Reuters)
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