A year-end order bonanza for Airbus has swept away the lead built up by Boeing and put the European plane maker in position to claim bragging rights for 2021.
Boeing amassed an order advantage in early 2021 fuelled by pent-up demand for its 737 Max as the single-aisle workhorse came out of a two-year grounding. Through October, its lead stood at 428 aircraft, based on figures reported by the two plane makers.
But Airbus cashed in during the last two months of the year, notching major wins at the Dubai Airshow in November and snatching narrow-body accounts at Qantas Airways and Air France-KLM in mid-December.
In the final week of the year, the European plane maker landed 40 firm orders from leasing company Aviation Capital Group, while a tentative deal reached with US company Air Lease Corporation in Dubai was expanded to 116 jetliners and has now been finalised, said an Airbus spokesman.
With those added in, Airbus edged past Boeing by 58 planes, based on a Bloomberg calculation of announced orders.
Airbus may also be able to claim victory on a net basis.
Through November, Boeing had reported 457 net orders for 2021, with Airbus trailing at 368.
But the European manufacturer’s December haul pushed its annual total to some 664 jets before netting out any cancellations that have not been disclosed. That compares with 476 for Boeing, which notched a December freighter deal with UPS.
The final tally won’t be known until both companies report official figures in early January.
It’s entirely possible that Airbus will disclose many cancellations and fall short of catching Chicago-based Boeing on a net basis. With Covid-19 continuing to roil airline finances, both manufacturers have endured cancellations that shaved hundreds of orders off their books.
The contract wins will nonetheless reassure executives at Toulouse, France-based Airbus that the plane maker has bolstered its case with suppliers for a planned production increase.
Airbus has already cemented an unassailable lead in annual output.
Through November, it had delivered 518 aircraft towards an annual goal of 600 for the year. Boeing had handed over 302 jets, as a pickup in 737 Max deliveries was offset by production problems on its larger 787 Dreamliners.