With the Paris Air Show less than a week away, Airbus has so far been unable to lure crucial customers to its proposed A350 jetliner despite making sweeping changes to the plane a year ago, giving rival Boeing Co. a major opportunity to cement its market dominance for the next decade, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Airbus had hoped to shore up its credibility with customers before the industry's most closely watched trade show of the year. Five years behind Boeing in developing a new midsize long-haul jetliner, Airbus has booked only 13 firm orders for the A350, compared with nearly 600 for Boeing's 787 Dreamliner.
The European plane maker must move quickly. Customers are racing to secure delivery spots in the Dreamliner order book, making it difficult for Airbus to catch up. In recent weeks, Airbus has offered steep discounts and other incentives for A350, said one airline and others familiar with the matter.
Officials at Airbus, a unit of European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co., say they are on the right track, though they acknowledge they are facing an uphill battle in closing deals. "It's moving more slowly than some might have expected," said John Leahy, Airbus's chief operating officer for customers, in an interview. "But nobody's informed me they want to cancel."
The marketing offensive comes nearly a year after Airbus agreed to redesign the A350 amid customer complaints that the jetliner wouldn't be as fuel-efficient, as easy to maintain or as comfortable as the 787. While Airbus is likely to announce some A350 orders at the show, it isn't likely to make the big splash it had hoped.
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