Airbus Vs. Boeing: Which Manufacturer Won 2021?

The Airbus – Boeing duopoly is now decades old, and competition between the two plane makers is intense. Boeing faced its second blow in a row last year as the 737 MAX grounding continued, though with the MAX now back in circulation, which of the two won 2021?

Airbus, Boeing, Dubai Airshow
Airbus vs. Boeing: Which plane maker won 2021? Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

To work this out, we could just look at new orders or deliveries. However, we thought we’d dive slightly deeper into the situation with the help of data from the manufacturers themselves, fleet data from ch-aviation.com, and schedule data from aviation data experts Cirium. So, who won 2021?

Aircraft delivered

Let’s start by looking at the aircraft delivered during 2021. While the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has still been felt by many airlines, deliveries picked up. The year was both good and bad news for Boeing. While the American planemaker was able to start clearing its backlog of Boeing 737 MAX jets, deliveries of the 787 were practically non-existent for much of the year.

According to Boeing’s official delivery report, the aerospace giant delivered 302 planes between January and November, with 36 customers ranging from Aeroflot to WestJet. 213 of these, or around two-thirds, were Boeing 737 MAX planes. Just 14 were the 787 Dreamliners, all delivered across two months in Q2.

American Southwest United Boeing 737 MAX
Able to resume 737 MAX deliveries, Boeing delivered over 200 MAX aircraft this year. Photo: Getty Images

Airbus appears to have faired better, with none of its products facing delivery pauses. The planemaker reports that it delivered 518 planes to 80 different customers from January to November.

Deliveries winner: Airbus

New aircraft ordered

As with deliveries, new aircraft orders have also been impacted by the pandemic for a second year running, though things are looking up. Both manufacturers saw a couple of sizable orders placed during the Dubai Airshow, with more orders scattered through the year. Going by the Dubai Airshow alone, it would seem that Airbus had one the year by a landslide, but this may not be the case just yet.

Excluding the effect of cancelations, Airbus clocked 610 new orders during the year, ranging from five A350s for Lufthansa to 102 A321neos for Wizz Air. In contrast, Boeing has so far taken 829 orders from different customers throughout the year, including 100 MAXs for Southwest and 200 for United.

Airbus, Indigo Partners, A321
Indigo Partners placed a massive order for 255 Airbus A321 aircraft at the Dubai Airshow. Photo: Airbus

Of course, Airbus could still edge ahead before the year is out. Both manufacturers have only listed their data until November 30th. Yesterday Simple Flying reported that ALC had confirmed a considerable order, while Air France-KLM placed a sizeable A320/A350F order before Christmas.

New orders winner: Boeing

Active fleets

Many aircraft worldwide remain grounded, such as most of the A380 fleet due to COVID-19 or the United 777-200 fleet after an uncontained engine failure earlier this year. But which manufacturer has the most planes active as of today? Simple Flying turned to ch-aviation.com for the answer.

According to ch-aviation’s data, there are currently 9,214 active Airbus aircraft flying with 426 different carriers, including 7,462 narrowbodies, 1,653 widebodies, and a handful of other aircraft. Alongside many Airbus A380s, Qatar Airways has grounded a significant number of its Airbus A350 fleet as it looks to take Airbus to court in London over paint scheme issues.

Etihad Airways, Airbus A380, Return
Many aircraft remain grounded due to COVID-19. Photo: Getty Images

Again, it seems that Boeing edges ahead with the most active aircraft. According to ch-aviation.com’s data, there are currently 10,726 operational Boeing aircraft belonging to 583 different carriers. Narrowbody jets make up 7,634 aircraft, while widebodies comprise 3,092 jets.

Active fleets winner: Boeing

Most flights in 2021

Using schedule data from aviation data experts Cirium, we can see how many flights have been scheduled with Airbus and Boeing aircraft throughout 2021. In total, 18,309,109 flights were planned for passenger and cargo jets from the two manufacturers, accounting for around 62% of the total flights for 2021.

Airbus and Boeing took the number one and two spots in terms of flights per manufacturer. Boeing accounted for 8,907,948 flights during the year, meaning that Airbus edged slightly ahead with 9,401,161 flights scheduled for the year.

Airbus formation
More passenger and cargo flights were scheduled with Airbus aircraft this year. Photo: Airbus

While Airbus is the overall winner in this category, Boeing was behind far more widebody flights with 1,103,294 flights compared to 645,220 with Airbus aircraft. The gap between narrowbody operations was slightly more significant at: Airbus 8,744,941 – 7,804,654 Boeing.

Most flights winner: Airbus

Aircraft scrapped or written off in 2021

We move back to data from our friends over at ch-aviation.com in this category. While it’s common for aircraft to be scrapped at the end of their lives, to judge this category, we’re looking for the manufacturer how has seen the fewest aircraft scrapped or withdrawn during the year.

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Airbus has seen some high-profile aircraft scrapped during the year. A couple of months ago, Singapore Airlines scrapped a couple of its earlier Airbus A380s. Meanwhile, Emirates took apart the first Airbus A380 that it took delivery of a couple of months before taking delivery of its last Airbus A380.

Singapore Airlines, Airbus A380, Scrapped
More Boeing aircraft were scrapped or written off this year. Photo: Getty Images

With that in mind, 82 Airbus aircraft were scrapped or written off during the year, including a former Lufthansa jet bound to be upcycled. Surprisingly, more Boeing aircraft have been scrapped or written off during 2021 so far. The publication reports that 126 Boeing jets have been scrapped this year, including 48 Boeing 747s. Many airlines sought to retire Boeing 747s when the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Aircraft scrapped winner: Airbus

The final result

All in all, it seems as though Airbus has edged ahead as the winner in 2021, though the gap doesn’t seem to be as significant as last year.

  • Aircraft delivered: Airbus
  • Aircraft ordered: Boeing
  • Active fleet: Boeing
  • Most flights: Airbus
  • Aircraft scrapped: Airbus
Airbus 3 – 2 Boeing

Of course, the year has had its ups and downs for both carriers. Airbus has been embroiled in the aforementioned A350 paint issue with Qatar Airways and other carriers. Meanwhile, Boeing has also recently seen an unrelated paint issue on some of its Dreamliners. Speaking of the Dreamliner, it doesn’t seem as though deliveries of the type will resume before 2022. That being said, the Boeing 737 MAX has been ungrounded in many territories this year, including Indonesia, yesterday.

Which manufacturer won 2021 in your eyes? Let us know what you think and why in the comments!

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