SINGAPORE - Singapore Airshow organisers on Friday announced a record high of more than $32 billion in deals as Asian carriers ordered more aircraft to meet explosive demand for cheap, short-range travel.
European manufacturer Airbus accounted for nearly half of the total, with almost $15 billion worth of orders for its popular A320 single-aisle plane and flagship A380 superjumbo.
The total figure beats the previous record of $31 billion set during the 2012 edition of the biennial event, and was more than triple the $10 billion spent in 2010.
It is Asia's largest combined avation and defence show, with more than 1,000 exhibitors from 47 countries participating.
Trade days ended Friday and the exhibition will be open to the public over the weekend.
- Growth driver -
Emerging Asian carriers were the stars of the airshow, forging deals that underscored the region's importance as the growth driver of global aviation.
Jimmy Lau, managing director of Experia Events which organised the airshow, predicted an "upward trend" for smaller aircraft plying domestic routes.
"The people who will be likely making good inroads are (firms such as) Embraer and Bombardier who will be selling their regional jets to countries like Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia," Lau said during a press conference.
Airbus received its first order of the year for the double-decker A380, the world's biggest passenger plane, when British-based leasing firm Amedeo signed an $8.3 billion deal for 20 of the aircraft.
The purchase agreement put Airbus on track to meet its target of 30 orders for the A380 in 2014.
Airbus had suffered some setbacks last year with the discovery of cracks on some of the giant jetliners' wings.
Airbus also won an order for 63 A320 jets worth $6.4 billion from fledgling Vietnamese budget carrier VietJetAir.
Apart from the firm orders, the deal covered rights for VietJetAir to acquire or lease 38 more A320s, potentially boosting its current fleet of 11 tenfold.
Airbus also used the event to showcase the new generation A350-XWB wide-body aircraft to Asian buyers. It is on track to come into service at the end of the year.
US rival Boeing secured a commitment from Thai budget carrier Nok Air to buy 15 single-aisle B737s worth $1.45 billion.
Myanmar's national carrier Myanma Airways signed a deal to lease 10 Boeing 737s that will ply international routes as the once-reclusive country opens up further to the outside world.
Brazilian manufacturer Embraer sprang a surprise when it announced a firm order for 50 of its E-Jets E2 aircraft worth $2.94 billion from Indian carrier Air Costa, which began operations only in October last year.
The deal with Air Costa also includes purchase rights for 50 more of the aircraft, which can seat between 70 and 130 passengers.
Airline executives say many smaller cities in Asia remain underserved despite the rapid growth in budget air travel, and they will use the new planes to connect such destinations to metropolitan centres.
Economists said Asia's expanding middle class is driving demand following years of steady economic growth in the region.
The United States, which was this year's featured country and showcased both defence and commercial products,said it was satisfied with the results.
"The visitors here are serious about seeking American technology, quality -- and potential partners. These are the customers that change business for our exhibitors and the reason why so many American businesses of all sizes come to this show," said Tom Kallman, who managed the US pavilion at the event.
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