Which airline builder was the best in 2019? Boeing or Airbus? One answer may seem obvious, but it pays to understand how and why one airframe builder managed to get ahead.
Who had the most orders?
Let’s not beat around the bush. Airbus cleaned up this year with more orders than Boeing.
Looking at the figures as of November 2019 (this article was written December 31st, 2019):
We can see that Airbus managed to get 718 orders compared to Boeing’s -84 orders. These orders above are incomplete, with Airbus receiving a bigger order in December for a huge 115 aircraft, from Cebu Pacific and Spirit Airways.
Yesterday we went into detail as to why Airbus managed to get so many orders, but essentially:
- They shut down A380 production and moved those orders over to other variants (such as the A350). Because an Airbus A380 costs more than an A350, that spend amount could be leveraged to get more aircraft. For example, Emirates reduced its A380 order by 39 aircraft and thus was able to translate that spend into 50 A350s.
- Airbus also launched the A321XLR at the Paris Air Show. This new aircraft filled a niche that was currently underserved by the industry (You could argue the Boeing 757 and 767 did meet the requirements, but not as efficiently as the A321XLR). This new aircraft proved popular and won Airbus over 400 orders.
- Speaking of new, Airbus also continued to promote its new A220 aircraft. This opened up another market segment for Airbus and is gaining popularity.
- Airbus’ A320neo also was the only alternative to the Boeing 737 MAX, but we will get into that subject later.
Speaking of Boeing, you might notice that they lost orders this year and ended on a negative number. Some of these orders are from Emirates switching orders away from the Boeing 777X and into the Dreamliner. Additionally, Boeing lost 737 MAX orders due to airlines canceling the type or going out of business.
You can read all about Boeing’s year here.
The impact of the Boeing 737 MAX
We can’t ignore 2019’s biggest aviation news story, the Boeing 737 MAX being grounded. The 737 MAX was the fourth generation of Boeing’s incredibly popular 737 product line and set to carry the company well into the new decade.
However, with revelations that the crashes involved engineering errors with the aircraft and that they still have not been solved put a huge damper on Boeing’s ability to attract new business. The cost alone to the families of the tragedy, paying off airlines and smoothing over other issues has cost the company plenty.
This year, the only large airline to make an effort to work with Boeing, IAG, signed a letter of intent with the airframe builder at the Paris Air Show for 200 aircraft. Apart from that, Boeing received little attention when compared to Airbus.
Many airlines that had previously shown brand loyalty to Boeing moved over to Airbus, making big orders for their A320neo range and pushing the aircraft to have more orders that the 737.
The year ended with the news that Boeing plans to shut down production of the 737 MAX to stem the tied of aircraft piling up in their carpark (and I’m not exaggerating, they are up to 400 now).
Where does that leave us?
Overall, 2019 was Airbus’ year. There is no mistake that Boeing is down but they are certainly not out. They have their Boeing 787 series selling well (Far more popular than the Airbus A330) and their new Boeing 777X aircraft could be a serious rival to the Airbus A350.
But as commentators wrote on our last few articles, Boeing is now in a cash-poor position (thanks Tony), whilst Airbus is nicely set up for the future. Boeing needs to find a way to fix the flaws with their 737 MAX product, and possibly create a clean-sheet design to replace the 737 MAX and counter the threat of the Airbus A321XLR.
Airbus, however, can relax and count their sales as they move forward into 2020. They have plenty of blueprints hidden away such as lengthening the Airbus A220 into a -500 model to counter anything Boeing can come up with(Or Boeings Embraer aspirations). Plus if Boeing manages to create a Boeing 797, Airbus could ramp up A330neo production or restart shrinking of the clean sheet A350.
What do you think? Did Airbus ‘win’ this year? Let us know in the comments.