However, Airbus says it's likely Boeing could be the orders winner in 2012.
Roughly 86 percent of Airbus' 1,419 net requests last year were for the company's A320 new engine option, or A320neo, which Airbus launched at the end of 2010.
"Airbus' record order intake is the result of our strategic decision for A320neo," Tom Enders, president of Airbus, said in a statement. "With this innovation we established a new industry standard, appreciated by our customers and followed by the competition."
Boeing waited until August to launch a re-engined 737, the MAX, and said earlier this month that it has 1,000 orders and commitments for the aircraft. Many of those commitments will be finalized in 2012, giving Boeing an orders boost.
Airbus' top salesman, John Leahy, said that the jet maker expects total orders this year between 600 and 650 aircraft, including the A320neo. Southwest Airlines will be the first recipient of Boeing's new plane, representing the biggest firm order, by number of planes, in the company's history -- 208. The list-price value is nearly $19 billion.
Leahy cautioned that competition from Boeing's revamped 737 this year could unseat Airbus from leadership in the orders race. After a market share of new orders of 64 percent last year, "in 2012 we will be down around 50 percent or probably lower than that," Leahy told reporters at the company's annual New Year's news conference.
Boeing logged 805 net orders in 2011, including 200 requests for the 777. Although Boeing fell behind Airbus in overall jet orders, the Chicago-based aerospace company booked more orders for widebody aircraft, specifically the Everett-built 777, 767 and 787. Boeing recorded orders for 254 widebody jets, compared to 71 orders for Airbus widebodies.
Airbus also delivered 534 aircraft last year, up from 510 a year earlier, keeping the title of world's biggest jet maker, which it has held since 2003. That beat Airbus' previous delivery record, set in 2010, by 24 aircraft. Deliveries included 421 single-aisle airplanes, 87 A330s and 26 A380s. Boeing delivered 477 aircraft in 2011.
Airbus is by far the largest division of EADS, which also encompasses the Astrium satellite builder and Cassidian, a defense electronics contractor. Troubles in developing and launching new aircraft like the A350 wide-body long-range jet and the A400M military transport have squeezed EADS' profitability for years, but CEO Louis Gallois promised improved results starting this year.
"We will see significantly better profitability as soon as 2012," Gallois said, thanks to Airbus efforts to get troubled programs back on track. Higher deliveries, stronger pricing and cost savings across all of EADS' divisions will also help lift the group's profitability, Gallois said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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