Despite record output, Airbus couldn’t match Boeing’s ramped-up production of jets last year. And though Airbus won more orders, the value of Boeing’s orders was higher. Yet departing Airbus boss Brégier projected the European jetmaker will overtake Boeing by 2020.
Airbus delivered more jets in 2017 than ever in its history, yet still finished second behind Boeing’s tally, data released late Sunday by the European aircraft manufacturer shows.
The results, as expected, show Airbus won more orders last year than Boeing. However, because Boeing’s order book had many more of the large, expensive widebody jets, the value of the U.S giant’s orders was higher.
Yet Fabrice Brégier, the outgoing president of Airbus Commercial Aircraft, proclaimed the jetmaker won’t languish in second place much longer.
In a show of hauteur ahead of his departure next month after a shake-up at the top, he projected that Airbus will put its 2017 production difficulties behind it this year and raise output enough over the next two years to outshine Boeing.
“I bet with some journalists that in 2020, Airbus will become the leader not only in sales but also in deliveries,” Brégier said in a video released on Monday by Airbus.
Following an end-of-year frenzy of jet deliveries and orders in December, Airbus finished the year with 718 jets delivered, compared to the 763 delivered by Boeing.
Brégier hailed his team’s achievement in making 2017 the 15th consecutive year of Airbus production increases.
The target Airbus had set at the beginning of last year was for delivery of 700 to 720 jets.
However, production issues from 2016 lingered through much of 2017.
Engine-maker Pratt & Whitney struggled to fix defects in its geared turbofan engines for the A320neo, and A350 deliveries were hit when supplier Zodiac Aerospace delivered seats and other interior fittings late.
Through the first half of the year, many aircraft sat unfinished outside the Airbus assembly plants.
“I can tell you, after the summer, it was a hell of a challenge” to meet the production target, Brégier said.
But at year end, Airbus pulled out all the stops to clear airplanes from its factories with an all-time delivery record in December. More than one-sixth of the year’s deliveries came in that final month.
Brégier said that production is set to go more smoothly now. He said that in 2018, “we expect that the engine guys will do a better job.”
If they deliver on their promises, he said, Airbus will ramp up single-aisle production to 60 jets per month by 2019, from an average of just 46 per month last year.
With the ramp-up of A320 production and with the twin-aisle A350 headed for a production rate of 10 jets per month by the end of this year, Brégier said “we will be close to 800 deliveries in 2018.”
Because Boeing will be ramping up its 737 line in Renton from 46 jets per month last year to 52 per month this year, it should hit around 800 deliveries.
At list prices, Airbus’s 2017 deliveries were valued at $108 billion. However, a Seattle Times analysis, using market pricing data from aircraft valuation consultancy Avitas, pegs the true value of the Airbus deliveries after standard industry discounts at approximately $48 billion.
The Avitas data values Boeing’s 2017 deliveries, skewed more toward the widebody jets, 25 percent higher at an estimated $60 billion.
The sales race
In the annual orders race, the outcome is less clear.
Airbus sales chief John Leahy, ahead of his retirement later this month, claimed one last victory in that race.
Boeing had finished last year with a healthy 912 net orders. Leahy bagged 1,109 net orders, with 841 of those coming in December.
The Airbus year-end orders included three big single-aisle jet orders: 146 for Hungarian low-cost-carrier Wizz Air; 134 for Denver-based ultra-low-cost carrier Frontier Airlines; and 105 for Delta Air Lines, all of which were the bigger A321 models.
Yet the analysis by dollar value shows Boeing on top, with orders worth $63 billion versus $60 billion for Airbus.
Boeing won orders for 167 of its large, widebody jets compared with just 55 similar-sized jets for its rival.
The Boeing tally included 94 of its midsize 787 Dreamliners and 60 of the even more expensive large 777 models.
Airbus sold 56 midsize A330s and A350-900s and just one large A350-1000.