The multi-billion-dollar enterprise of manufacturing aircraft aircraft has enjoyed a vigorous recovery since the height of the pandemic last year.
And of the world’s two largest aircraft manufacturers, the clear leader in recovery was Europe’s Airbus champion over US rival Boeing.
The two aviation giants ended 2021 with a combined score of 951 deliveries. It was 32 percent higher than in 2020, although still 41 percent lower than the peak of 1,606 in 2018.
The main driver of the recovery was in the single aisle or “middle market”, where Airbus already had a significant advantage before the crisis, as airlines advocated for its medium-sized A320 family jets for domestic routes as well as, increasingly, international travel.
Low-cost aircraft, including America’s jetBlue and Aer Lingus, fly the A321LR, a long-haul medium-sized aircraft, over the Atlantic Ocean. Airbus’ new narrow fuselage with even greater distances, the A321XLR, will make its first flight this year, ahead of delivery to customers in 2023.
The European aircraft maker’s A321 represents 46 percent of the A320 family’s deliveries in 2021, according to data from consulting firm Cirium.
“We expect it to exceed 50 percent this year, based on current data,” said Richard Evans, senior consultant at Cirium, an aviation consultant monitoring the world’s airline fleet.
“It would be the first time ever. There is increasing interest in that size and capability. Boeing does not have a competitive product in that area with the 737 Max 10 not yet in service. ”
Richard Aboulafia, managing director of AeroDynamic Advisory, is equally positive that Airbus’ dominance in that segment of the market will continue to grow. “It is very clear that Airbus’ figures are really accumulating in that area.”
Boeing is still hampered by the fallout from the 737 Max crisis after two fatal accidents led to the plane’s worldwide crash in March 2019, as well as more recently by production problems on its 787 Dreamliner wide body. The company has, at least in public, halted plans for a new medium-sized jet to counter Airbus’ dominance.
Airbus, meanwhile, has increased production of its single-jet radiators as it seeks to capitalize on demand and market recovery. The company said there is a supply restriction for its top-selling aircraft.
China has also played a role in the European company’s lead on single-speed deliveries, according to Cirium’s Evans, with Boeing’s 737 Max not yet returning to service in the country.
Airbus delivered 142 aircraft to Chinese airlines last year, but there were only two (787s) from Boeing, according to Cirium.
“China has taken jets. This is the interesting angle. . . “So clearly there is more confidence in the Chinese market,” said Aboulafia.
Boeing’s hopes of narrowing the gap with Airbus over deliveries will largely depend on how quickly it can resume it to China, its largest overseas market.
It may shortly after a report said Thursday the country’s aviation regulator, which was the first to ground the 737 Max in 2019, is close to recertifying the aircraft and it could resume commercial flights this month.
Much will also depend on trade tensions between Washington and Beijing.
Although Boeing did not deliver as many aircraft last year as he had hoped, it is achieving more success with the future orders.
It discussed 765 gross orders, excluding cancellations, for narrow-body aircraft last year, of which 749 were for the 737 Max, as airlines began reordering the jet after it grounded.
That means the company now has a healthy backlog of contracts for the 737 Max, with 3,376 on order, suggesting that Boeing may be able to launch a fightback effort on deliveries this year.