Airbus Beats Boeing on Deliveries, Is Set to Lose on Orders
(Bloomberg) -- Airbus SE cemented the title of world’s largest planemaker for the third straight year with 611 jetliner deliveries, though it’s on track to lose the contest with Boeing Co. over orders.
The European manufacturer beat its own handover target by 11 planes, leaving its U.S. competitor in the dust. Jefferies estimates that Boeing, which is due to report year-end figures on Tuesday, transferred 337 new aircraft to customers in 2021.
While Airbus won the deliveries race, Boeing is poised to take the orders crown. Airbus racked up 771 gross sales for the year, short of the 829 its U.S. rival had at the end of November. Airbus got commitments from customers including Indigo Partners LLC in the final part of the year but some didn’t make it onto the books before the end of December.
The figures show the extent to which Airbus’ recent success depends on its flagship A320-family of aircraft, with 483 of the model delivered in 2021, or almost 80% of the total. Airbus told reporters airlines can now expect to wait several years for an A320neo if they order directly from the manufacturer.
“When we started the year we were not expecting 2021 to be a year of strong orders and actually we saw in the second part of the year a lot of activity on that front,” Chief Executive Officer Guillaume Faury said on the call. It’s “a sign of customers looking beyond the pandemic.”
Bloomberg News reported last week that Airbus was on course for about 610 deliveries for 2021.
The close-fought orders battle between the two planemakers signals a return to the traditional competitive landscape for deals. This had been upended, firstly by the grounding of Boeing’s 737 Max after two fatal crashes, and then by a flood of pent-up demand for the U.S. narrowbody as it returned to the market.
The latter part of last year saw carriers take advantage of low prices to make landmark orders, including Indigo’s deal for 255 Airbus narrowbodies and Akasa Air’s purchase of 72 of Boeing’s 737 Max jets, both inked at the Dubai Air Show in November.
Air France-KLM and Qantas Airways Ltd. both opted for Airbus in December despite previously relying on Boeing in the single-aisle aircraft segment, but neither appeared in the 2021 books. The Air France-KLM transaction should be firmed up in the coming weeks while Qantas is due to follow suit in early 2022.
There’s an open contest at IAG SA, which never completed an outline accord for 200 737 Max made back in 2019. Delta Air Lines Inc. could also seek more planes and has said it sees a potential place for the 737 Max in its lineup.
The other challenge facing Airbus is ramping up production of its flagship A320-family. The company is committed to building 65 month by mid 2023 and is still examining the case to push beyond that, Faury said.
Supply-chain issues which led to disappointing build rates in September and October have largely been ironed out, though the company still struggles with the price of energy and a lack of availability of both raw materials and staff, he said.
Airbus now has no white tails -- or built aircraft without a customer -- left in inventory, the company said.
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