Airbus beaten by Boeing in 2006, but promises fightback

PARIS, Jan 17, 2007 (AFP) – Airbus said on Wednesday it had lost first place to Boeing in the battle for orders in 2006, but said it would increase deliveries in 2007 and would launch a cargo version of its A330-200 plane. Airbus has led US-based Boeing for new orders since 2001, but the European maker was overtaken last year by 1,044 orders to 790, Airbus chief Louis Gallois said.

Airbus remained ahead in terms of deliveries however, supplying a record 434 aircraft, and it said it would increase this figure to between 440-450 in 2007.

Airbus hit crisis in 2006 involving production difficulties, abrupt management changes and a stream of bad publicity.

It plans to launch a deep cost-cutting programme, to be detailed by Gallois next month, and has also decided to develop a number of new aircraft to compete with the new Boeing range of jets.

On Wednesday, it said it had chosen to launch a cargo version of its A330-200 airliner, a longhaul medium-capacity jet, following interest from potential clients.

In December Airbus opted to go-ahead with the launch of the A350 XWB passenger jet, a 10-billion-euro (13-billion-dollar) project designed to to compete with the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

Airbus chief