Airbus vs Boeing – Who Won The Paris Air Show?

Both Airbus and Boeing walked away from the Paris Air Show with substantial orders to add to their books. Although the industry was predicting a downturn in order placements this year, it turned out to be a respectable forum for business deals overall. But who did best in the Airbus vs Boeing stakes?

Frontier will soon operate the Airbus A321XLR.  Photo: Airbus

Airbus orders and commitments

The A220, as expected, was a popular model at the Air Show for Airbus. Air Lease went for an additional 10 of the planes, taking their orders to a total of 50. Delta Air Lines selected the higher maximum take off weight version, swapping five outstanding orders to the A220-100. NAC added the A220 also, with a MoU for 20 of the type, and an undisclosed customer signed MoUs for 10.

The A330-900 neo performed well for Airbus too, with Philippine airline Cebu Pacific committing to 16 of the type. Controversially, they plan to pack the A330 with no less than 460 seats in an all-economy layout. Virgin Atlantic also committed to the A330neo, with firm orders for eight and options for another six. It’s also leasing six more from Air Lease.

Cebu Pacific A330neo
Cebu Pacific will fly the densest A330neos in the sky. Photo: Airbus

The A320neo family did amazingly well for Airbus, counting for 238 of the orders announced at the show. Dublin based lessor Accipiter Holdings signed up for 20 of the A320neos, although this order was made in March but with the customer listed as ‘undisclosed’. China Airlines ordered 25 of the A320neo, and Saudia committed to 30 A320 family aircraft, 15 of which will be the A320neo.

Cebu Pacific also ordered five A320neos, and Air Asia came in with a massive upsizing order to convert 253 of their A320neo orders to the A321 neo.

But the absolute star of the show this year was undoubtedly the A321XLR. Announced by Airbus on the first day of the show, the aircraft went on to secure hundreds of orders from no less than 11 customers. The 4,700nmi narrowbody plane seems to be what the industry has been crying out for, putting Boeing’s plans for an NMA somewhat on the back foot.

A321XLR range chart
The impressive new capabilities of the A321XLR. Photo: Airbus

The first to jump in with an order was Middle East Airlines, who will convert four of their existing A321neos to the new long range version. Lessor Air Lease signed a letter of intent for 27 of them, and on day two Cebu Pacific struck a package deal which included 10 of the new A321XLRs.

With the Saudia order, the other 15 of the 30 A320 family ordered at the show will be the A321XLR. IAG also signed up on day two, ordering 28 of the type destined for Aer Lingus and Iberia, split between 14 firm orders and 14 options.

18 A321XLRs will go to Indigo Partners subsidiary Frontier, as well as Wizz and JetSmart. Photo: Airbus

Day three was a big winner for the XLR too, with a massive order from Indigo Partners. They newly ordered 32 of the A321XLR, and also converted 18 existing A320 family orders to the new plane. American Airlines too converted 30 of their outstanding orders to the new long range variant and added another 20 of the type to their order, due for delivery in 2025.

Qantas committed to 36 of the type, ordering 10 additional aircraft and converting 26 of its outstanding 99 A320neo orders to the XLR. And, in a last minute moment of showmanship from Airbus, they announced an order of 13 A321XLRs by JetBlue, all of which were converted from outstanding aircraft orders.

Airbus orders summary

Taking data from the Flight Global order tracker (and adding the last minute JetBlue order to it) the Airbus order book looks like this:

Aircraft type Customers Firm Orders MoU / LOI Options Swaps
A220 4 80 5
A330-900neo 2 8 16 6
A320neo 5 35 7 35
A321neo 4 34 10 253
A321XLR 11 39 99 14 91
TOTALS 26 82 236 65 349

That gives Airbus a new order total of 383 aircraft, plus 349 upsized orders, bolstered by that massive order change by AirAsia and a large number of switches to the new A321XLR.

According to Bloomberg, Airbus secured $44.5bn of new orders, based on list prices. This excludes options, purchase rights and leased aircraft.

Boeing orders and commitments

Boeing’s order book looks, unsurprisingly, somewhat bare in comparison to Airbus. They’ve struggled this year to attract customers, with their bestselling jet grounded (and looking to remain that way for some time) and their newest plane, the 777X, notably absent from the show due to engine issues.

Still, they managed to put on a good show and secured almost as great of an order value overall as Airbus.

Cleaning up the most widebody orders was Korean Air, who signed an MoU for 20 new Dreamliners. This was split between the 787-9 and the 787-10, with 10 of each being added to the fleet. The Seoul carrier also said they will add 10 more 787-10s to be supplied by Korean Air Lease.

Korean Boeing 787 Order
Korean Air has ordered 30 Boeing 787s at the Paris Air Show. Photo: Boeing

Korean Air Lease themselves also ordered the Dreamliner, adding 10 on an MoU as a new order. Just one 777 sold at the show, a 777-200LR bought by Turkmenistan Airlines.

A good seller for Boeing was their 777 freighter, of which Qatar bought five and China Airlines six. Their Boeing Converted 737 Freighter, on display at the Air Show in Prime Air livery, also sold well, with ASL Aviation Holdings ordering 10 of the type with 10 options. GECAS also converted options to firm orders for 10 of the type and added another 15 options for the 737-800BCF.

Prime Air
The Prime Air 737-800BCF attracted orders from. Photo: Simple Flying

The real saviour of the Show for Boeing, however, was IAG, who stepped in on day 2 with a surprising order of no less than 200 of the 737 MAX. Despite the jet’s difficult reputation and current grounding, IAG are confident that by the time the jets are delivered, it will be back in the passengers good books and a popular aircraft again.

IAG Boeing 737 MAX Order
The IAG Group has submitted a letter of intent for 200 Boeing 737 MAX Aircraft. Photo: Boeing

The 200 strong plane order included 100 737 MAX 8s and 100 737 MAX 10s. They’ll be split between IAG airlines LEVEL, Vueling and British Airways, with the BA portion said to be operating out of Gatwick. It’s the first order Boeing has received for the aircraft since it was grounded in April, and certainly saved the manufacturer’s blushes at the Air Show.

However, Airbus have subsequently said they plan to fight for this business, and are seeking to overturn the order as a result.

Boeing orders summary

Using data released by Boeing and the Flight Global order tracker, Boeing’s order sheet for the Paris Air Show looks like this:

Aircraft type Customers Firm Orders MoU / LOI Options Swaps
787-9 2 15
787-10 1 10
777-200ER 1 1
737 MAX 8 1 100
737 MAX 10 1 100
777F 2 11
737-800BCF 2 10 10 25
TOTALS 10 10 247 25 0


That gives Boeing a total of 292 new aircraft orders for the Air Show. According to Bloomberg, this represents an order value of $33.9bn at list prices. However, it’s likely that IAG got a substantial discount for their large 737 MAX order, given the current situation.

So, who wins?

With both Boeing and Airbus having dismal months for sales in the lead up to the show, it’s reassuring to see both secured new business during the event.

Contractually, Airbus secured almost 700 new deals, although around half of those are conversions as airlines choose to upsize existing orders. It’s also questionable whether Boeing’s orders for the 737 BCF should be considered ‘new’, as they’ve already been sold once and are not newly manufactured aircraft.

A321XLR computer concept
The A321XLR has been a top seller at the Paris Air Show. Photo: Airbus press release

There’s also the question of firm orders versus memorandums of understanding versus letters of intent. In legal terms, a letter of intent is weaker than an MoU, which is all the IAG order actually is. Firm orders were seriously lacking at both the manufacturers, although Airbus secured significantly more than Boeing.

Overall, Airbus takes the crown, with their new A321XLR clearly being a massive hit with both airlines and lessors. Airbus actually exceeded all expectations and surpassed the number of new orders and commitments at the last Paris Air Show by 47 aircraft. Conversely, Boeing struggled to even get close to the 571 orders they secured in 2017 and would have endured something of a washout if it wasn’t for the IAG 200 plane rescue deal.

Overall, it’s been another great show and we can’t wait for Farnborough next year!