By Tim Hepher and David Shepardson
FARNBOROUGH, England (Reuters) - Boeing has been cranking out order announcements at this week's Farnborough Airshow, restoring momentum to its troubled 737 MAX, while rival Airbus on Wednesday added to its A320neo order book.
Boeing has secured over 100 firm orders for the MAX as it still faces big challenges to certify a crucial new variant before a year-end deadline.
Qatar Airways also might be open to reviving a tentative deal for 25 MAX which had lapsed, sources told Reuters. "It's a quiet show, but within that I think Boeing's mojo is back," said Agency Partners analyst Sash Tusa.
Airbus on Wednesday confirmed a deal for 56 A320neo family jets to easyJet after budget airline's shareholders backed it.
The European planemaker scooped a huge order for almost 300 aircraft from China weeks before the biennial show, which is making its return after a four-year pandemic-induced hiatus.
Aerospace leaders are anxious to simply turn the page after the pandemic and the safety grounding of the 737 MAX, events which rocked the industry.
Supply chain problems, soaring inflation, fuel prices, and ever-growing pressure to decarbonise highlighted by a record heatwave in the UK this week have dominated discussions instead.
INDIAN DEALS EYED
Deals with fast-growing India have so far eluded Farnborough, however, which alternates with Paris as the world’s biggest airshow.
Air India is moving closer to a decision on an order worth $50 billion at list prices under new owners Tata Group to be split between Airbus and Boeing, thought not likely in time for the show, industry sources said. Both planemakers are making a "final push" with the order set to include up to 70 wide-body jets including Airbus A350s and Boeing 787s and 777s, and up to 300 narrowbodies, they said.
One source said a decision looked "imminent" though another cautioned that the outcome remained unpredictable.
Both planemakers declined comment. Tata Group did not respond to a request for comment.
In a sign of the stakes involved, Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun flew to India ahead of this week's show, two sources said. Boeing declined comment on his movements.
Airbus hopes to redirect jets originally intended for Russia's sanctions-hit Aeroflot as part of any deal.
Reuters reported on Sunday that officials from Airbus had also visited India last week, but that hopes of an order at Farnborough were on hold.
The purchase of debt-ridden Air India has given Tata immediate access to valuable flying rights and landing slots, especially to destinations in the United States and Europe.
But analysts say it will be an uphill battle to turn around the carrier's financials and service levels.
The airline, with its maharajah mascot, was once renowned for its lavishly decorated planes and stellar service championed by founder JRD Tata. Since the mid-2000s, however, Air India's reputation has declined as financial troubles mounted.
Also on hold for the time being is an order for 50 Airbus A220 airliners from India’s Jet Airways, two industry sources said.
The two sides have the outlines of a deal but a last-minute hitch has prevented the deal being signed, they said.
“We are in an advanced stage of discussions with lessors and (manufacturers) for aircraft, and we will announce our aircraft choice and fleet plans as we make our decision,” a Jet spokesperson said.
(Reporting by Tim Hepher, Aditi Shah, Paul Sandle and David Shephardson; editing by Jason Neely)