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Airbus gets Dubai boost but loses eight freighter orders

PARIS (Reuters) - Airbus booked over 100 orders in November and potentially extended its lead over U.S. rival Boeing, but the manufacturers are neck-and-neck in this year's order race based on business being finalised in the wake of a record Dubai Airshow.

European planemaker Airbus (PAR:EAD) increased the number of orders taken since the beginning of January to 1,373, compared to 1,212 in the latest incomplete tally available for Boeing, which runs until November 26.

After cancellations, Airbus logged 1,314 net orders in the first 11 months of the year. It delivered 562, the EADS subsidiary said.

Boeing stacked up 259 orders and commitments for a revamped version of its 777 long-haul aircraft at last month's Dubai Airshow, but more than 200 of these have yet to be posted in the company's backlog of confirmed orders.

Airbus won an order for 50 A380 superjumbo aircraft from Dubai's Emirates, but this is also waiting to be finalised.

Boeing was due to update its orders later on Thursday.

The Emirates A380 order marked a turnaround in orders for the world's largest airliner after a period of slack sales.

Two industry sources said there was speculation that only half the order for 50 aircraft would definitely be fulfilled and that the remaining 25 were subject to some form of caveat, but top Emirates and Airbus officials strongly denied this.

In its latest monthly order update, Airbus confirmed an order for 50 A350s from Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways.

But it suffered a new setback for its A330 freighter, whose backlog has been dwindling amid weak cargo markets.

While celebrating orders for five A330 freighters from Qatar Airways and one from Etihad at last month's air show, Airbus also took a cancellation for eight of the same aircraft from OH-Avion LLC, resulting in a net drop in pending orders.

The aircraft were originally ordered in 2007 by Avion Aircraft Trading, in part for Icelandair, in a deal that never materialized, and there were doubts whether the aircraft would be delivered, Aviation Week reported earlier this year.

Freight markets have been in the doldrums throughout the global financial crisis but the International Air Transport Association this week reported 4 percent cargo traffic growth in October, reflecting an improvement in economic confidence.

Airbus has meanwhile acted to shore up confidence in a plane it no longer produces, the A340, by elaborating plans to raise the maximum certified number of seats to 475, lowering the per-seat operating costs, according to two people familiar with a briefing on the matter in London this week.

(Reporting by Dominique Vidalon, Tim Hepher; Editing by Jon Boyle)