The 47th Paris air show opens on Monday with France-based planemaker Airbus expected to announce major deals from Middle East-based airlines as it seeks to make up ground on sales by U.S. rival Boeing Co.
Airbus kicks off what is expected to be a busy week of commercial announcements with a news conference set for 10 a.m. (0800 GMT) with Qatar Airways, Dubai-based Emirates and others mooted as customers likely to announce major plane deals.
Qatar recently reiterated its intention to buy 80 of the new Airbus A350 XWB model due in 2013, and industry executives say the carrier will finalize the $16 billion deal.
Qatar's A350 deal could also bring a contract for Rolls-Royce, which is the only supplier of engines on the twin-engined XWB.
An industry source said Qatar could announce it wants more A380 superjumbos, as well.
Emirates is set to place a provisional order worth more than $3 billion for 10 A380 superjumbos, industry sources said. The order will give a boost from the aircraft's biggest customer to the A380 program after a two-year delay.
Emirates already has firm orders for 47 superjumbos.
Airbus declined to comment.
Airbus is also working to bring in a coveted firm order from US Airways, which has provisionally ordered 22 A350s, that the European planemaker is anxious to prevent slipping to Boeing.
The Airbus XWB is a bigger rival to the Boeing 787 which is due to hit the market in 2008, prompting some analysts to suggest the XWB is more likely to take business away from Boeing's larger and older 777 model.
$30 BILLION SHOW
Brokerage analysts expect deals for at least 300 planes at the event which runs until June 24, including an order for 50 Boeing 787s expected from International Lease Finance Corp. (ILFC), a unit of insurance company American International Group Inc.
That would mean a business tally of about $30 billion for the air show, keeping Boeing and Airbus on track for another year of $100 billion in airliner sales at list prices.
Deep discounts are common, however, and analysts will be looking closely at the deals done at Paris to assess whether Airbus, in particular, is gaining or losing pricing power as it looks to claw back its slipping market share.
Boeing led the annual battle for orders by 417 to 201 for Airbus as of the end of May.
About 140 aircraft from global companies are on show and around 40 will perform flying displays if recent heavy rains in Paris make way.
In defense, Boeing will display its C-17 transport plane and F/A-18F Super Hornet fighter jet and Airbus parent EADS will have three mid-air refueling planes at the show, underscoring its hopes of cracking Boeing's long reign in that market.
Regional airliner makers Bombardier of Canada and Brazil's Embraer are also attending as is Russia's Sukhoi, which is less than a year away from flying its new Superjet 100 regional jet, one of several planes in the offing which could make headlines at Paris.
(Additional reporting by Tim Hepher)