LE BOURGET, France — Airbus is trouncing Boeing in the race to be the world's biggest planemaker, claiming more than $72 billion worth of orders and commitments at the Paris Air Show, where the popularity of its new fuel-efficient jets twice broke records for the largest order ever.
Airbus' success cast a long shadow over Chicago-based Boeing, which recorded only $22 billion in orders and commitments, and raised questions over the U.S. company's ability to compete in a market dominated by concerns over high fuel prices.
Airbus chief executive officer Tom Enders and AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes signed off Thursday on an $18.5 billion order for 200 of Airbus' new A320neo aircraft, which has proved to be the star of the aviation industry's premier event.
The order is the largest ever, eclipsing the previous record set a day earlier by another A320neo customer, Asian carrier IndiGo.
The recipe to Airbus' gains over Boeing is deceptively simple. It modified its existing workhorse jet, the A320, with improved engines and modified wing tips to make it reportedly 15 percent more fuel efficient than Boeing's 737.
The plane will start delivering in 2015 but Airbus is using it now to cash in on airlines' need to reduce sky-high fuel costs and cut carbon dioxide emissions.
Airbus' Enders said the A320neo was now "by far the bestselling airliner in the history of commercial aviation."
Boeing played down the orders rivalry, saying it doesn't keep deals in reserve just to announce them at air shows.
It recorded orders and commitments for 142 aircraft worth $22 billion during the show. That includes a commitment from an undisclosed customer for its hulking new 747-8 Intercontinentals worth $4.7 billion.
Besides AirAsia and IndiGo, Airbus also nabbed orders and commitments from the U.S. airline JetBlue and Garuda of Indonesia.