Airbus remains world's top plane maker with 566 deliveries in 2020

Deliveries fell 34% from 2019 levels amid pandemic-triggered havoc in air travel

Uganda Airlines receives first A330neo. Courtesy Airbus
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Airbus said it delivered 566 commercial aircraft to 87 customers in 2020, retaining its position as the world's biggest plane maker in a year disrupted by pandemic-triggered havoc in air travel.

The Toulouse-based company delivered 34 per cent fewer aircraft from a record 863 jets handed over to customers a year earlier, it said in a statement on Friday. Its shares closed 0.54 per cent higher at €90.10 ($110.13) at the end of trading on Friday in Paris.

"Working hand-in-hand with our customers allowed us to navigate a difficult year," Guillaume Faury, Airbus chief executive, said. "The Airbus teams, customers and suppliers truly pulled together in the face of adversity to deliver this result."

The results came as the Covid-19 pandemic wiped out air travel demand, forcing airlines to ground aircraft and delay jet deliveries to preserve cash. While Airbus's deliveries fell short of record levels in 2019, they still helped bolster the company's finances in a year that marked the aviation industry's worst crisis.

Airbus deliveries in 2020 puts it ahead of US rival Boeing, which delivered 118 aircraft in the period from January to November. Airbus's lead in market share came as Chicago-based Boeing struggled with the grounding of its best-selling 737 Max narrowbody. Boeing resumed deliveries of the jet, which was grounded in March 2019 following two fatal crashes, in December after regulators lifted the safety ban.

The European aerospace giant recorded 268 net orders in 2020, after adjusting for 115 cancellations, a 65 per cent drop from 768 orders in 2019.

Its backlog stood at 7,184 aircraft after adjusting for cancellations.

In terms of plane models, Airbus's A220 won 64 new orders. The A320 family of narrowbodies won 296 new orders, including 37 for its ultra-long range A321XLR. In the widebody segment, Airbus won 23 new orders including two A330s and 21 A350s.

The pandemic has hit the market for twin-engine jets hard as long-haul travel is expected to be the last segment to recover.

Airbus said it will report full year financial results for 2020 on February 18.

The new strain of the Covid-19 virus has triggered a new wave of lockdowns in key travel markets, stoking concerns about a halt in the fragile recovery of travel demand.

Still, Airbus's deliveries were better than expected given the lockdowns during the year.

"Based on our 2020 deliveries we are cautiously optimistic as we look into 2021, although challenges and uncertainties remain high in the short term," Mr Faury said.