Airbus chief salesman tempers gloom

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PARIS (AP) -- Airbus announced a large order from Spanish tourism company Grupo Marsans on Friday as the European planemaker's chief salesman insisted the outlook for the airline industry isn't as gloomy as some are predicting.

Airbus orders are slowing, but Leahy said it won't have a "dramatic effect on production" thanks to a backlog of around 3,700 aircraft.

"Everyone is saying that it is the end of the world, but we are not seeing that," Chief Operating Officer John Leahy said in an e-mailed response to questions from The Associated Press.

"Today is nowhere near as bad as post 9/11 and during SARS. Airlines will continue to take older aircraft out of service if they need to reduce capacity."

Airlines suffered in the aftermath of the 2001 terrorist attacks and in 2003 due to an outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS.

Today, Airbus' customer airlines are battling volatile fuel prices, tighter credit conditions and diminishing passenger traffic amid the global economic slowdown.

The International Air Transport Association is forecasting airline losses may exceed $5.2 billion this year.

Tight credit conditions mean Airbus will have to "provide assistance in limited cases" to airlines, he said.

In 2008, Leahy said he's "comfortable" that Airbus will achieve its target of 800 orders.

Airbus, whose parent company is EADS, said Thursday it had taken 119 cancellations this year, 71 of them in October. That brings the net order tally for the year to 675 until the end of October.

On Friday, Airbus said Grupo Marsans has signed a firm order for 61 aircraft worth $8.99 billion at list prices. Airbus did not give a value for the deal, and airlines usually negotiate discounts to the catalog price.

The order includes four superjumbo A380s, 10 of the long-range A350-900s, five wide-bodied A330-200s and 42 single-aisle planes from the A320 family.

Grupo Marsans said the 61 jets it ordered will be operated by subsidiary or related airlines. President Gonzalo Pascual said in a statement they are intended to "enhance our position on the short- and long-haul sector" in the mid to longterm.

Airbus supplied the comments which they said were attributable to Leahy in response to questions from The AP.

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