Airbus sees no new plane orders for the third month as Covid-19 hits travel demand

The company is slashing 15,000 jobs at its jetliner arm after lowering build rates by one-third in April

The Airbus logo can be seen on a building next to the main entrance of the Hamburg plant of European aircraft maker Airbus is seen on July 8, 2020. Airbus said it is planning to cut around 15,000 jobs worldwide, 11 percent of its total workforce, in response to the "gravest crisis" the industry has ever seen. / AFP / MORRIS MAC MATZEN
Powered by automated translation

Airbus failed to secure any aircraft orders for a third month this year, as the collapse in global air travel battered demand for new jetliners.

The European plane maker attracted zero purchases in June, according to a company statement Wednesday. The manufacturer suffered one cancellation, a spokesman confirmed, bringing total net orders to 298 aircraft so far this year.

The tally marks a worsening of the order crunch for Airbus, which has been working to avoid losing business by agreeing to defer deliveries as airlines seek to rein in capacity in anticipation of years of sluggish demand. The company handed over 36 aircraft in June, an improvement on May’s 24 deliveries.

Airbus last week announced plans to cut 15,000 jobs at its jetliner arm after lowering build rates by one-third in April amid the coronavirus pandemic. Shares of the Toulouse, France-based company were up 0.6 per cent at 9.05am Thursday in Paris. They have slumped 50 per cent this year.

Aircraft lessor Avolon Holdings said Tuesday it had scrapped a commitment for one A330neo due in 2022, as well as pushing back the arrival of three A320neo-series narrow-bodies. Boeing took a bigger hit, with Avolon exiting contracts for 27 737 Max planes on top of 75 earlier cancellations.

Boeing has also suffered far more pain overall, with 602 orders lost through May as the grounding of the Max for more than a year allows buyers to walk away without incurring penalties. Boeing’s best-selling jet was banned from the skies in March 2019 after two deadly crashes.

Airbus’s handovers of new jets have been sustained by the adoption of a process that delegates some pre-delivery checks to the manufacturer’s own engineers, overcoming issues with travel curbs.

Agency Partners analyst Sash Tusa says Airbus may deliver 603 aircraft this year, falling to 355 in 2021 and 416 in 2022 as the impact of deferrals kicks in. That, in turn, may force further cuts of around 30 per cent of production, he estimates.

With the company continuing to make planes faster than customers accept them, inventory may have increased by some €4.5 billion (Dh18.7bn) in the second quarter, estimated Sandy Morris, an analyst at Jefferies.

He called this a “balancing act", and said it may not satisfy investors looking at cash flows and earnings measures.

“We believe Airbus is questing for a level of production that is optimal for the next 24 months or so,” Mr Morris said in a note. “Inventory could rise again in 3Q20, but it will unwind over time.”