November 8, 2011 / 12:46 PM / 6 years ago

UPDATE 2-Airbus lead widens as neo sales hit 1,000

* Airbus sold 1,372 aircraft, net sales 1,231

* Boeing booked 538 sales, 428 after cancellations

* Republic firms up order for 80 aircraft

By Tim Hepher

Nov 8 (Reuters) - Sales of a revamped Airbus jetliner topped 1,000 units worth $100 billion as the European planemaker widened its lead over Boeing in a race that shows few signs of ending because of recession.

The bonanza is about twice what analysts and Airbus predicted a year ago when it unveiled a more fuel-efficient version of its bestselling jet, but worries about fuel prices have sent airlines scrambling for the A320neo.

Airbus data released on Tuesday suggested that promises made at an air show in June continued to turn into firm contracts despite escalating fears about the economy and the travel industry.

Toulouse-based Airbus said it won 1,372 orders between January and October, more than three times the volume at the same stage last year and 2-1/2 times the 538 sales reported over the period by U.S. rival Boeing.

After taking into account cancellations, the planemakers booked net sales of 1,231 and 428 aircraft respectively.

Boeing hopes to catch up with 600 provisional orders for its revamped 737 MAX, a makeover of the world's most-sold aircraft that, like the A320neo, will boast new engines. First, it must finish the design.

"The demand is driven by the fact that the people who get these planes first will have an advantage," said Teal Group analyst Richard Aboulafia.

The two models promise double-digit percentage savings in fuel consumption thanks to engines designed by CFM, a venture between General Electric and France's Safran and Pratt & Whitney, part of United Technologies .

The fuel savings have prompted many airlines to renew fleets to reduce one of their highest costs.

However, the sales are feeding demand from an industry that is in turmoil in many parts of the world.

Some analysts have criticised Airbus and Boeing for plans to boost production to record levels even before the new aircraft become available mid-decade.

NEW BATTLEFRONT

Shares in Airbus parent EADS fell 1.6 percent to 20.97 euros. Boeing rose 1.2 percent to $66.68.

Airlines lobby IATA has warned of tough times ahead, predicting industry profits in 2012 will fall 29 percent to $4.9 billion.

Latest Airbus figures included a sale of 110 aircraft to Qantas , which has since been swept up in a crisis over the temporary grounding of its fleet in a battle with unions.

Hours after the data was released, U.S. carrier Republic Airways firmed up a Paris Air Show order for 80 A320neo-family planes on behalf of its Frontier unit, only to announce plans to sell or spin off the carrier.

Analysts say Airbus was anxious to get the sale to resist competition from Canada's Bombardier .

SAS , the flag carrier of Norway, Sweden and Denmark, warned that it would make a slight profit this year.

Airbus overtook Boeing in 2003 to become the world's largest commercial planemaker measured by deliveries.

The A320 and 737 are the best-selling models of each manufacturer and the backbone of most airline fleets. They are seen as a cash cow for bigger projects such as the Boeing 787, which entered service this month, and Airbus' future A350.

Boeing is considering whether to turn the tables on Airbus by upgrading the 777 wide-body jet with new engines and other modifications.

Boeing sold 134 of the roughly 350-seat aircraft between January and the start of November. Airbus that was forced to respond to the threat by beefing up engines on its competing A350-1000, a model which has scored no sales this year.

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