Boeing Loses Ground to Airbus on Jet Deliveries

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Airbus beats Boeing in deliveries for three consecutive years, as Boeing continues to deal with production issues

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Airbus said on Monday that it delivered 611 aircraft in 2021 and won 771 or 507 cancellation orders.

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Delivery, when airlines and other customers typically pay half or more of the purchase price, is closely watched by investors. Analysts expect Boeing to report sales of about $65 billion for 2021 when it reports results on January 26, up from $58.2 billion in 2020 when it delivered just 157 jets.

Boeing and Airbus still have orders for thousands of planes planned for delivery over the next several years, even as airlines continue to work through the COVID-19 pandemic, measured by available seats. Global air exhaust capacity, which is 35% lower than last year. According to data provider OAG, pre-pandemic 2019.

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The two companies have been fighting for the title of the world’s largest aircraft manufacturer in terms of deliveries for decades. Airbus now holds that title for a third year as Boeing is hampered by the crisis that has surrounded production problems with its 737 MAX and its 787 Dreamliner. Boeing has compiled a list of more than 100 undelivered Dreamliners as it addresses various manufacturing issues and seeks regulatory approval.

Airbus now owns 60% of the market for best-selling workhorse jets such as the A321neo, which airlines use on large domestic routes and increasingly for international service. Richard Aboulafia, managing director of Aerodynamic Advisory, an advisor, said the stock is poised to climb higher.

Boeing has shelved plans for a new jet to focus on production of the existing model and win regulatory backing already under development. Even so, the largest version of the Max has been sold by rival Airbus Aircraft, up from about six to one, based on year-end orders for the planes still to be delivered.

Airbus has been quick to restore production that was trimmed early in the pandemic, while Boeing has taken longer to boost production as it awaits regulatory approval to fix the 787.

Boeing’s total orders last year included carriers that couldn’t get their hands on the new Airbus jet. Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air last week agreed to buy 100 MAX jets, its first Boeing purchase. Maura Gallagher, chief executive of parent Allegiant Travel Company, said no new Airbus planes now ordered by the airline will be received until the end of the decade.

“What we have to acknowledge is that this was an opportunistic transaction that was largely driven by availability and pricing,” said Christian Scheer, Airbus’ chief commercial officer, this week of the Elegant deal.

Airbus is aggressively ramping up production of its narrow-body aircraft as it looks to recover air travel and capitalize on its rival’s production woes. The company has said it hasn’t been able to build aircraft quickly enough, except for its best-selling aircraft, the A320neo, which sold out over the next few years, even as it aims to pre-empt the second quarter of 2023. The pandemic is to go back to the production level.

Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury said, “We had some very important orders in 2021, which I think is a sign of many customers looking beyond COVID.” He said he didn’t expect a strong year for the Order.

Boeing declined to comment, citing a quiet period ahead of its upcoming earnings release. Executives have previously said production plans depend on an improvement in airline traffic – which they expect to reach 2019 levels in 2023 or 2024 – and resume deliveries in China.

While Airbus and Boeing have traded the top positions for orders and deliveries several times over the past decade, the US company has often been the largest by total value of deals. Boeing has tended to produce more elaborate bodied aircraft, which carry higher prices.

That gap has also narrowed over the past two years, and the sharp decline in intercontinental travel during the pandemic has made such twin-aisle planes difficult to sell. Boeing’s new 777X jet is also three years late and still awaiting regulatory approval, with the first not to be delivered until late 2023 at the earliest.

The 777X will fill the gap left by the 747, whose production Boeing will stop this year. Cargo specialist Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings Inc. is due to take the last plane off the line in October, more than 52 years after Pan American World Airways received the first.

Boeing has relied more heavily on military versions of passenger planes and cargo jets to generate sales in the wide-body market it once dominated. The boom in airfreight helped record orders and deliveries for freighters last year.

Airbus, which announced a new wide-body freighter last year to challenge Boeing’s dominance in that segment, still has the advantage of being able to deliver to Chinese airlines, a market that is currently a major concern for Boeing. Closed because of widespread trade tensions between the US. and China.

China accounted for a quarter of Boeing’s order book before the pandemic, but has not ordered new jets since 2017. No more than 100 Max jets scheduled for Chinese carriers have been delivered, awaiting signoff from Chinese regulators that Boeing has said will hopefully arrive in 2022.

Airbus delivered more than 90 planes to mainland China last year, while Boeing managed only two through aircraft leasing companies. Most of the 475 Boeing MAX jets that entered service last year, a mix of new deliveries and others restored for operation, were in the Americas and Europe rather than Asia.

Write Doug Cameron at [email protected] and Benjamin Katz at [email protected]

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