Major aircraft rivals Airbus SE and Boeing Corp. released their preliminary summaries of 2021 activities – new aircraft orders and deliveries – with the European jet-builder retaining the top spot for deliveries but ceding the crown for new orders to the U.S. manufacturer. While both businesses have been hit hard by disruptions and order cancellations due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the 2021 results restore some balance to a rivalry which had seen Boeing hampered by the grounding of its 737 MAX series for 20 months in 2019 and 2020.
Boeing recorded 909 total orders for 2021 – but effectively it counts 535 net orders for new aircraft, after scoring for cancellations and conversions of previously tallied orders.
For the U.S. manufacturer, the resumption of the 737 MAX narrow-body jet program has been decisive, as airlines increase their forecast demands for smaller passenger loads and less transcontinental travel following the pandemic. Boeing recorded a net new-order total of 263 of its top-selling model during 2021.
The higher-volume jet programs (777 and 787) accounted for just 24 and 14 net new-orders during the year; and Boeing also saw increased interest in its wide-body cargo jet programs – the 747 and 767 – which had net new-orders of 7 and 32, respectively, during 2021.
Airbus recorded 771 total orders during 2021, but that counts as a net total of 507 orders after cancellations and conversions.
Like Boeing, Airbus saw the highest level of demand for its A320 series narrow-body jets, with 483 net new-orders for 2021, followed by the wide-body A350 series with 59 net new-orders and the smaller A220 series aircraft with 50 net new-orders. The wide-body A330 and A380 series drew 18 and 5 net new-orders, respectively, for 2021.
As for new-aircraft deliveries, Airbus posted a total of 611 jets delivered during 2021, higher than the 600 it set as the target for investors, and the third straight year it took that honor.
Boeing’s 2021 aircraft delivery total was 340, up from 157 in 2020 but still less than the 380 jets delivered in 2019 and well behind its record for deliveries (806 jets) set in 2018.