The duopoly of Boeing and Airbus have long dominated aircraft sales and will likely do so for the foreseeable future. Boeing has a longer history, but Airbus has grown quickly since its founding. Its A320 is now the best-selling aircraft family of all time, and in 2019 Airbus booked significantly more orders than Boeing (1,131 compared to 246). This article takes a quick look at Airbus’s most successful aircraft to date.
The A320ceo (4770 orders)
Not surprisingly, the top-selling aircraft family is the A320. But within this, the earliest is still the best. The original A320ceo (named ‘current engine option’ after the later ‘new engine option’ was developed) leads the way.
Of course, it has had longer to attract sales, but the high volume of the first family member shows well Airbus’s success in the design and development of its Boeing 737 competitor.
Sales across the variants have increased in the years since its launch. It has now overtaken the Boeing 737 as the most sold commercial aircraft (but not yet in deliveries).
A320neo (3925 orders) and A321neo (3446 orders)
The A320neo variants offered many improvements. As the name suggests, it brought new, more efficient engines. But there were also improvements in wing design, with sharklets to improve efficiency, and cabin improvements.
With the upgrading of A320ceo models a possibility, it is not surprising it has stayed ahead in orders. The cabin and other efficiency improvements (but not engines) can be added to the lower cost ceo models, keeping it in service and production for a long time.
However, with the A320neo only being launched in 2016, its order numbers are very impressive. In terms of orders per year, it is way ahead of the ceo, demonstrating not only the success of Airbus but the keen focus in past years on improving efficiency.
A319ceo (1486 orders)
The A319ceo stands out as well. This smaller member of the A320 family has built up an impressive 1486 orders since it entered service in 1996. The choice of different sized variants, and commonality between them, has been key to the success of the family.
Unlike the A320 and A321, though, the A319neo variant has not been popular, with only 84 orders. Rather than a major change in airline preference, this is more likely to be due to competition from the A220, as Simple Flying previously looked at.
Top of the widebodies – A330-300 (785 orders)
The A330 has been by far the best-selling widebody for Airbus. 1,818 aircraft have been ordered in total, with the A330-300 the most sold variant. After its initial success with the A300, it aimed to go further and take on Boeing in large. widebody aircraft and the A330 achieved exactly that.
Its success should also be looked at alongside the A340. The two aircraft were developed together as a two and a four-engined option for a widebody. This made a lot of sense to lower costs and gave Airbus exposure to markets it may not have had otherwise. The A340, with only 377 sales, is sometimes thought of as a failure. But when considered as a joint development, the A330/A340 program was a great success.
A350-900 (762 orders)
The A350-900 is Airbus’ second-best-selling widebody so far. Given its launch in 2015, this is especially impressive. It is also the first ‘clean-sheet’ design from Airbus for some time. The popular A320 family and the A330 family have evolved with upgrades rather than re-designs.
Its efficiency and range have seen it well used on long-haul routes. It is currently in service with 32 airlines. And with Singapore Airlines’ modified A350-900ULR version, it has the longest range of any current aircraft. Its larger companion, the A350-1000, has sold 168 aircraft so far. The A350-900 is likely to stay ahead, especially with upcoming competition from the new Boeing 777X likely to impact the larger model more.
Would you like to discuss any of Airbus’ aircraft? Feel free to share your thoughts on their successes and limitations in the comments.