Flurry of late orders puts Airbus neck and neck with Boeing for 2021

A windfall in late-year orders for Airbus SE wiped out much of the lead Boeing Co. had built up in 2021.
Image credit: AFP

London: A windfall of year-end orders for Airbus SE wiped out most of Boeing Co.’s lead in 2021, and even put the European aircraft maker in a position to claim bragging rights for the year based on net commitments.

Boeing racked up an orders advantage in early 2021, fueled by pent-up demand for its 737 Max, as the single-aisle workhorse emerged from a two-year standstill. Until October, its lead stood at 428 aircraft, based on figures reported by the two aircraft manufacturers.

But Airbus cashed in the last two months of the year, snagging major wins at the Dubai Airshow in November and snatching narrow-body accounts at Qantas Airways Ltd and Air France-KLM in December.

As of December 31, the backlog had narrowed to 58 aircraft, based on a Bloomberg calculation of announced orders.

On a net basis, Airbus could be in a position to claim victory.

As of November, Boeing had reported 457 net orders for 2021, with Airbus at 368. But the European automaker’s December transport, including 40 firm orders from leasing company Aviation Capital Group, pushed its annual total to around 548 before compensating for any cancellations that have not been disclosed. That compares to 476 for Boeing, which signed a freight contract with UPS in December.

The final tally will not be known until both companies report end-of-year orders and deliveries in early January.

It’s entirely possible that Airbus will disclose a slew of cancellations and fail to catch Chicago-based Boeing, even on a net basis. As Covid-19 continues to disrupt airline finances, both manufacturers have suffered recoveries that have slashed hundreds of orders for their books.

The contracts won will nevertheless reassure the leaders of Airbus, based in Toulouse, France, that the aircraft manufacturer has strengthened its case with suppliers for a planned increase in production.

In November, Airbus led with 518 aircraft deliveries towards an annual target of 600 for the year. Boeing had delivered 302 jets, as a resumption of 737 Max deliveries was offset by production issues on its larger 787 Dreamliners.

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