Less of the high life as aerospace giants cut air show perks
PARIS - Blistering heat and a clampdown on fine food and giveaways ensured a mellow start to the Paris Airshow this year, despite a flurry of orders triggered by the launch of a new Boeing jet.
The world's largest aviation meeting usually takes place in a blur of champagne and jet fuel as aerospace giants celebrate multibillion-dollar deals under eye-popping flying displays.
This year, the tone appears more frugal.
"Everybody is making savings this year. The teams have been asked to cut back a little on anything that might appear futile," an official with a French defense company said.
Elsewhere, Airbus is cutting back on hospitality and cultivating a mood of austerity as it slashes spending after combining its headquarters and main planemaking division.
It has halved the 800-900 staff attending previous shows, officials said. Boeing also set limits on staff attendance.
Some delegates said Airbus was striking a more cautious image amid a sweeping ethics review.
"Everything is about compliance," said one insider.
For all but the top VIPs, the France-based company's traditional gourmet lunches are being replaced by finger food, and refreshments are mostly of the non-indulgent variety.
"We'll be gone by Tuesday," quipped one disgruntled executive at the start of the June 19-25 event.
Organisers said many companies had cut chalet space. That is partly because the number of exhibitors has risen, but it also reflects leaner times across the industry.
Exhibition halls were also noticeably less stocked with trade show promotional materials, delegates said.
It is not the first time air show hospitality has been placed on the back burner.
In 2010, champagne was banned from some facilities as U.S. arms firms cut back on anything that might suggest frills and perks to Pentagon planners and others weighing big defense cuts.
This year, defense spending is on the rise again and chalets of arms firms are humming with activity. But the civil side of the aerospace industry is hunkering down to produce planes as cheaply as possible after a multi-year order boom.
Although Boeing launched a new version of its 737 jet on Monday, overall commercial orders are expected to be down after planemakers filled their order books in previous shows. REUTERS