Airbus dominates production of single-aisle aircraft, driving sector rebound
The multi-billion dollar passenger jet manufacturing business has seen a powerful rebound since the height of the pandemic last year.
And among the world’s two largest aircraft manufacturers, the undisputed leader of the recovery was the European champion Airbus ahead of its American rival Boeing.
The two aerospace giants ended 2021 with a combined total of 951 deliveries. This was 32% higher than in 2020, although still 41% lower than the peak of 1,606 in 2018.
The main driver of the recovery has been the single-aisle or “middle market”, where Airbus already had a significant advantage before the crisis, with airlines calling for its family of mid-size A320 aircraft for domestic routes as well as, increasingly plus, international travel.
Low-cost carriers, including US jetBlue and Aer Lingus, are flying the A321LR, a mid-size, long-range aircraft, across the Atlantic. Airbus’ new, even longer, narrow-body A321XLR will make its first flight this year, before being delivered to customers in 2023.
The European aircraft maker’s A321 accounted for 46% of A320 Family deliveries in 2021, according to data from consultancy Cirium.
“We expect that to be over 50% this year, based on current data,” said Richard Evans, senior consultant at Cirium, an aviation consultancy that tracks global airline fleets.
“It would be the first time. There is growing interest in this size and capacity. Boeing does not have a competitive product in this area with the 737 Max 10 which is not yet in service. »
Richard Aboulafia, managing director of AeroDynamic Advisory, is also optimistic that Airbus will continue to dominate this segment of the market. “It’s very clear that Airbus’ numbers in this area are really adding up.”
Boeing has continued to be hampered by the fallout from the 737 Max crisis after two fatal crashes led to the plane’s global grounding in March 2019, as well as more recently by production issues on its 787 widebody. Dreamliner. The company has, at least publicly, shelved its plans for a new midsize jet to counter Airbus’ dominance.
Airbus, meanwhile, has ramped up production of its single-aisle jets as it seeks to capitalize on demand and the market recovery. The company said there was a supply constraint for its top-selling planes.
China also played a role in the European company’s lead in single-aisle deliveries, according to Cirium’s Evans, as Boeing’s 737 Max has yet to return to service in the country.
Airbus delivered 142 planes to Chinese airlines last year, but there were only two (787) from Boeing, according to Cirium.
“China took jets. That’s the interesting angle. . . So there is clearly more confidence in the Chinese market,” Aboulafia said.
Boeing’s hopes of closing the gap with Airbus on deliveries will largely depend on how quickly it can resume them in China, its biggest overseas market.
It could be soon after a Thursday report said the country’s aviation regulator, which was the first to ground the 737 Max in 2019, is set to recertify the plane and that it could resume commercial flights this month.
Much will also depend on trade tensions between Washington and Beijing.
However, although Boeing did not deliver as many planes as it hoped last year, it is having more success with future orders.
It took 765 gross orders, excluding cancellations, for narrow-body jets last year, including 749 for the 737 Max as airlines began ordering the jet back after it grounded.
That means the company now has a healthy backlog for the 737 Max, with 3,376 orders, suggesting that Boeing may be able to launch a fightback on deliveries this year.