General Industry

Paris Airshow Grapples With Pandemic Aftermath

By Dave Simpson
Paris Airshow Grapples With Pandemic Aftermath

The first Paris Airshow in four years has clocked up billions of dollars in commercial jet orders and offered some respite for suppliers as air travel springs back sharply from the pandemic.


The industry returned to Le Bourget with high expectations of commercial orders and low expectations regarding the supply chain, but generated a more balanced picture on both fronts.

Announced orders reached near-record levels but were heavily dominated by two airlines leading the charge in India, the world's fastest growing market: IndiGo and Air India.

Airbus AIR.PA and Boeing collectively unveiled orders or commitments for some 1,100 jets, with Airbus at around 830 jets, led by a 500-plane deal with IndiGo.

But these fell short of some market forecasts of 2,000 orders, to the relief of some analysts who noted a less brash and more business-like tone than previous shows, from an industry scarred by its near-collapse during COVID-19.


India's economic growth and growing middle class have made it the latest frontier for aviation deals worth tens of billions of dollars, though exact prices were not disclosed.

"That market is going to feed a lot of players in our industry, and we'd like to be the first one there for a long time, barring unforeseen events," Airbus chief commercial officer Christian Scherer said.

Financing Method

A total of 970 orders from two Indian carriers showed airlines willing to lock in positions for the next decade and manufacturers building a foundation for rising output rates.

The IndiGo deal also highlighted the growing importance of the so-called sale-and-leaseback model, a popular aircraft financing method that requires a constant flow of new jets.

Under such deals, freshly delivered jets are sold by airlines to leasing companies, rented back and then operated for six years or more before being moved on to another operator.


For passengers, it means the fleet is kept young. For airlines it can mean a key source of extra profit on the sale.

Such financing now makes up 34% of all aircraft financing, Airbus said in a presentation to investors on Wednesday.

India's leasing market is facing some pressure, however, after the bankruptcy of carrier GoFirst sparked a dispute over lessors' rights. IndiGo Chief Executive Pieter Elbers said he was not concerned about an impact on the wider market.

The latest deals, coming after a number of mainly Boeing orders before the show, left the largest planemakers mostly sold out until the latter part of the decade.

A key focus of the show was how those planes will be produced after the pandemic disrupted supply chains. Another was hiring more workers: to be tackled in a special event on Friday.


As their biennial jamboree wound up under pouring rain on Thursday, delegates also had to absorb news of a strike at a Spirit Aero Systems SPR.N factory that makes Boeing 737 fuselages. A lengthy stoppage would impact suppliers worldwide.

Several major companies said they had built up more buffer stocks and were seeing signs of improvement in supply chains.

The conflict in Ukraine brought a raft of air defence order announcements and a growing focus on Europe's patchy growth in defence spending after years of budgets constraints.

For many, the show diverted attention from the plush chalets where planemakers keep count of orders to the crowded supplier halls where more of the industry's risk now resides.

"It was the most interesting European air show for a decade," Agency Partners analyst Sash Tusa said.


"The newsflow was much more balanced between defence and civil - and no longer just a counting competition."

The above news was followed by the following news:

Desperately Seeking Staff: Paris Airshow Lets Jobless In For Free

Jean Blondin usually attends the world's largest air show to find new contracts. This year, he has made the journey from Canada to look for something equally precious - workers.

Labour shortages are an urgent topic at this week's Paris Airshow, with gaps in the workforce singled out as one of the main factors hampering a swift recovery from the pandemic.

On Friday, organisers opened a campaign to lure people back to aerospace, with unemployed people allowed in free. Among those with vacancies are a dozen firms from Quebec aiming to persuade French workers to join them on temporary work permits.

"We are all competing for the same people," said Blondin, CEO of Montreal-based parts maker Abipa International.

French Prime Minister Elizabeth Borne greeted young workers at a jobs fair held under the wings of the iconic Concorde jet.

"The idea is to show that there are job opportunities without necessarily having a very elevated or specific qualification," Transport Minister Clement Beaune told Reuters.

"We also want to stress ... that there are opportunities for young women. There are still too few in this industry."

Fewer than 25% of French aerospace employees are female, with only 16% in production plants, according to industry data.

Silya Drouaz, 24, is a maintenance apprentice at Air France Industries, one of a small proportion of women working in the giant hangars at Charles de Gaulle airport.

"It is never the same thing, there is always something new to learn; I am working on Boeing 777s," she told Reuters.

Her message to female candidates at the fair: "You mustn't be afraid of stereotypes; if you want to do it, go for it".

French President Emmanuel Macron has made an initiative to reindustrialise France a key theme of his second term with a focus on energy transition, calling it the "mother of battles".

War For Talent

After years of declining enthusiasm for industry among the young, aerospace executives say their luminous, hospital-clean factories are a far cry from the popular image of industry.

"Look at our factories, how they are," industrialist Patrick Daher said, pointing to digital screens and high-tech displays.

"We are trying to motivate young people; it is no longer the 19th century, far from it. We are in a very digital world."

Recruitment signs dotted company stands, with engine maker Safran advertising "12,000 jobs available." Overall, French aerospace firms aim to hire 25,000 people this year.

After departures, that means a net increase of 9,000, said Philippe Dujarric, social affairs director at GIFAS aerospace association. In Quebec, aerospace needs 38,000 people by 2030.

It's a salvo in a broader war for talent as aerospace companies compete not only against each other but also against fast-growing industries such as electric vehicles.

It's also a dramatic turnaround from 2020 when the global sector laid off or furloughed hundreds of thousands of people.

While most would usually have returned to a sector known for cyclical swings, this time many did not, executives said.

Repair shops were especially hard hit as planes were grounded. Now that part of the industry is a major bottleneck, worsened by shortfalls in the durability of some engines.

Hiring is not the end of the story.

The loss of experience as the industry halted, followed by a wave of retirements, has reset the "learning curve", driving up costs which only come down as workers adapt to their tasks.

All this is happening as commercial aerospace faces its fastest ever production ramp-up to meet a recovery in travel demand, backed by orders worth eight years of production.

"If you don't invest, if you don't prepare the educational training of these people, one day you are going to face a real lack of competencies," said Thierry Baril, Chief Human Resources Officer at Airbus, which is stepping up training programmes.

For Canada's Abipa, travelling abroad to hire has become a necessity after postings failed to generate enough applications.

Blondin said a common language, French, and a lower cost of living in Quebec are helping attract French workers.

"We don't have to convince them. They want to come."

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