By J. Kasper Oestergaard, European Correspondent.
Airbus A320 Family Orders Surge – Boeing on Track for New Delivery Record.
Boeing and Airbus delivered 71 and 61 commercial jets in November 2015, respectively, compared to 58 and 49 in October. In 2015 to date, Boeing has delivered 709 aircraft, ahead of Airbus’ 556. Boeing strengthened its lead in the 2015 delivery race to 153 units, compared to 143 units in October and 134 units in September. In 2014 and 2013, Boeing delivered a total of 723 and 648 jets, respectively, compared to Airbus’ 629 and 626. Boeing has been able to increase deliveries significantly in recent years, mainly due to the ramp-up in production of the 787 Dreamliner (126 delivered in 2015 so far). Airbus is slowly ramping up deliveries of its A350 XWB and this, combined with a higher A320 production rate of 46 per month from Q2 2016, means that the company will soon begin narrowing the gap in the deliveries race. In November, Airbus delivered one A350 and it has delivered 11 A350s to date (the first was delivered in December 2014). The company expects to deliver a total of 15 A350s in 2015 and more than 100 in 2018, when the production rate will hit 10 per month.
Boeing will almost certainly exceed its 2015 delivery target of 750-755 jets, with the likely total being 770-775 units, while Airbus’ deliveries will be about the same as or slightly less than last year’s 629 units.
In the orders race, after a disappointing month in October with only 35 net new orders, Airbus increased its 2015 total net new orders to date to 1,007. During the month of November, Airbus landed 135 orders for the A320/A321neo and 15 for the A320/A321ceo aircraft. This was led by TAP Portugal’s purchase of 24 A321neo and 15 A320neo aircraft, easyJet’s order for 30 A320neos and 6 A320ceos, and Korean Air’s order for 30 A321neo jets. Completing the November narrowbody orders was the purchase of 21 A321neo and 9 A321ceo aircraft for VietJet, along with 12 A320neo and 3 A321neo jets ordered by IAG for Iberia. Airbus, meanwhile, reported that TAP Portugal had canceled 12 orders for the A350, replacing them with 14 A330-900s. In November, Boeing booked 79 net new orders, including 30 737 MAX aircraft for Korean Air, 18 787-10s for EVA Air, and 11 737-800 and 11 737 MAX airliners for BOC Aviation. After a long dry period, Boeing also booked an order for 2 747-8Fs for AirBridgeCargo. Boeing has now booked 568 net new orders this year to date. In both 2014 and 2013, Airbus won the orders race with 1,456 and 1,503 net new orders, respectively, ahead of Boeing with 1,432 and 1,355. In 2015, net new orders for both Boeing and Airbus will most likely fall from the 2014 levels, due, among other factors, to the sharp decline in the price of oil. Cheap oil makes it financially more attractive for airlines to keep operating older, less fuel-efficient aircraft.
With the recent jump in net orders, Airbus’ order backlog now stands at 6,837 jets (of which 5,569, or 81.5%, are A320 narrowbody jets), ahead of Boeing with 5,648 (of which 4,231, or 74.9%, are 737 narrowbodies). While Boeing has begun to tap its backlog, Airbus’ order book is still growing.
Risk of Boeing 777 Rate Cut
Both Boeing and Airbus are facing challenges going forward. Boeing is struggling to bridge the gap in production between its current-generation 777 (777F and 777-300ER) and the future 777X to maintain the current production rate of 8.3 per month (100 per year). The 777 is a very profitable aircraft for Boeing and an important “cash cow.” It will be difficult for the company to bridge the gap, as not enough orders are coming in for the current-generation 777. In 2015, Boeing has only booked 38 orders for the 777 (16 777Fs and 22 777-300ERs). It is more than likely that the company will be forced to cut the rate to first seven per month (84 per year) and later six per month (72 per year).
Airbus Ramping Up A320 and A350 Output
Airbus faces challenges now that production and deliveries of the A350 XWB will be ramping up. The company plans to produce 10 aircraft per month by 2018. Also, the company plans to increase the monthly production rate of the A320 to 46 next year and to 60 by mid-2019. Airbus officially opened its A320 final assembly line in Mobile, Alabama, the company’s first production site in America. Deliveries from Mobile are scheduled to begin in 2016 and to reach an annual output of 40 to 50 A320 series jets by 2018.
Another major challenge for Airbus centers on the future of the A380 as the company considers launching NEO and stretch variants of the aircraft. The company has to make a tough choice: either 1) invest billions in developing the NEO and stretch to reduce the aircraft’s cost per seat mile; or 2) phase out the platform and terminate production when orders run out in four or five years. In 2015 to date, Airbus has not booked a single new order for its largest aircraft. After a long order drought, Boeing booked two orders for the 747-8F in November 2015.