Airbus cuts 6,000 jobs after collapse in aircraft orders

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The Independent Online

Airbus Industrie yesterday confirmed it is to cut 6,000 jobs following a collapse in aircraft orders in the wake of the 11 September attacks.

About 1,000 of the job losses will be among permanent staff while 5,000 part-time and temporary jobs will disappear, reducing the size of the permanent workforce to around 44,500. About 500 of the permanent job cuts will be in the UK, where BAE Systems, which makes the wings for Airbus, has a 20 per cent stake in the company.

Boeing, the arch rival of Airbus, has already announced 30,000 job cuts in the US in response to the global downturn in air travel. But Noel Forgeard, the chief executive of Airbus, pledged that none of the job losses in Europe would be compulsory. "There will be no outright firings," he said.

The cost-cutting move will save €600m (£368m) and follows a 47 per cent decline in the order intake for Airbus last year. Orders fell from 520 in 2000 to a net 274 in 2001 after three airlines facing bankruptcy cancelled 101 planes.

Despite the sharp fall in orders, Airbus still managed to hold onto market leadership from Boeing by a wafer-thin margin, taking 50.2 per cent of all the large jet orders placed last year.

The sharp contraction in the aviation industry is expected to take an even heavier toll this year with the two manufacturers combined only expected to receive 250 to 300 orders – half the number achieved in 2001.

Nevertheless, Airbus said it remained confident it would produce and deliver 300 aircraft this year and a similar number in 2003. Last year, it delivered a record 325 aircraft, up from 311 in 2000.

Boeing also increased production last year, to 527 from 489 in 2000, giving it a 62 per cent share of all delivered aircraft. However, orders dipped by 55 per cent to 272 aircraft.

With a backlog of some 1,500 aircraft, Airbus claims it will overtake Boeing in terms of deliveries in 2003. But Boeing executives dismissed the claims. Seddik Belyamani, Boeing's executive vice-president for sales, said: "You can win as many orders as you like but it is deliveries that count," adding that Boeing's production line was sold out for this year and at least 70 per cent full for 2003.

Boeing is forecasting a decline in deliveries to between 350 and 400 airplanes this year and a further reduction in 2003 after which production would pick up.