Airbus backs Boeing standards despite losing crown to rival

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The Independent Online

The head of Boeing's bitter rival, Airbus, has backed the safety standards of the US aircraft manufacturer despite the grounding of Dreamliners due to fire fears over their batteries.

At Airbus's annual results in Toulouse today, its chief executive, Fabrice Brégier, insisted that both companies, which run a duopoly in commercial aircraft, were committed to tough safety standards.

Aviation authorities across the globe had just ordered Dreamliners to stop flying, due to incidents of smoke damage caused by lithium ion batteries – which Airbus also uses in some of its aircraft.

Mr Brégier said: "I think both Boeing and Airbus give the same priority to safety. I wish my colleagues at Boeing all the best because aircraft are supposed to fly."

He also insisted that the order to keep Dreamliners on the ground demonstrated that the industry took strong precautions when there are "any doubts" and showed that air transport was committed to safety.

Mr Brégier's comments came as he confirmed forecasts that Airbus, which is owned by pan-European group EADS, had been badly outsold in commercial aircraft in 2012. After five years of having the bragging rights over Boeing, Airbus sold just 914 aeroplanes to more than 1,200 for Seattle-based Boeing.

However, Airbus only targeted 650 fresh orders after record sales in 2011, when it launched the fuel-efficient Neo model well ahead of Boeing's rival, known as the Max.

Airbus did have a record year for the number of aircraft it actually delivered, at 588, and a target of 600 has been set for 2013. There are 7,500 Airbus aeroplanes in operation today, with the most expensive, the A380-800, selling for an average of more than $400m (£250m) a pop.

Airbus's chief operating officer, Gunter Butschek , told The Independent that improved corporate governance at EADS could eventually translate into increased sales.

Following EADS's failure to merge with British defence group BAE Systems last year, when the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, blocked the deal, EADS is altering its share structure so that it is free from political interference. Mr Butschek said this would make Airbus "simpler, more agile", and better sales could be a "secondary, knock-on effect".