MIAMI — Despite building economic unease in developing regions, 2015 was yet another banner year for the powerhouse duopoly that sits atop the global aerospace market. To date in 2015, Chicago-based Boeing and its European counterpart, Toulouse-based Airbus have collectively won more than 1,700 firm orders for new aircraft from customers. Meanwhile, the two original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are expected to deliver over 1,300 new airplanes to customers this year, generating more than $100 million in combined revenue and billions of dollars in combined cash flow.
Despite improvements to the overall financial conditions of airlines around, 2015 very much maintained the status quo: the aircraft manufacturers almost profited more from the airline industry than airlines themselves.
Boeing vs. Airbus Orders and Deliveries
The following list encompasses Airbus and Boeing orders and deliveries for 2015 broken out by aircraft family. The net order (new firm orders minus cancellations) figures are updated through the end of the year 2015.
Boeing 737 family: 588 net orders / 495 deliveries
Boeing 747 family: 2 net orders / 18 deliveries
Boeing 767 family: 49 net orders / 16 deliveries
Boeing 777 family: 58 net orders / 98 deliveries
Boeing 787 family: 71 net orders / 135 deliveries
Airbus A320 family: 879 net orders / 491* deliveries
Airbus A330 family: 150 net orders / 103* deliveries
Airbus A350 family: 16 net orders / 14* deliveries
Airbus A380 family: 3 net orders / 27* deliveries
For the year, Airbus resoundingly outflanked Boeing in terms of firm orders by a margin of just under 300 airplanes, 1,036 to 768. The big sales driver was the dominance of the Airbus A320 family, particularly the A321neo, over the 737 family and the 737-9. But even the A330 managed to outsell the 787 and 777 combined, due in large part to a major order from China. The Chinese boost is admittedly a temporary one, and Boeing may enjoy similar fortune in 2016 for the 777. Moreover, a few of Airbus’ A320neo sales could be characterized as overly optimistic or risky. Still, it’s not hard to be impressed by Airbus’ outwards sales dominance.
Boeing led on the deliveries front by a margin of 127 aircraft at 762 versus 635, but that was almost entirely driven by the head start it has with the 787 vs. the A350. As Airbus ramps up production rate on the A350 in 2016 to five aircraft per month, that delivery gap should halve, and by 2018, Airbus and Boeing will be delivering roughly the same number of A350s and 787s.
Airbus also had the upper hand strategically
At a fundamental level, orders represent future profits and cash flows while deliveries represent present ones. Thus the surface-level assessment is that Airbus’ long run prospects improved more than Boeing’s did due to events in 2015, while Boeing can be expected to deliver better present financial results. But it is also possible to perform more specific analysis on the various aircraft families in each OEM’s portfolio, as orders and deliveries of different aircraft have different levels of significance. For example, now that Airbus has bridged production to the A320neo, an order for even 65 A320ceos doesn’t have a ton of relevance. Meanwhile, even an order for 4 Airbus A380s would be huge news.
Looking at the strategic impact, its clear once again that Airbus outpaced Boeing in this arena as well. The A320neo maintained its dominance on the 737 MAX by actually increasing its market share and the supposedly obsolete A330 outsold the 787 2:1, that too mostly driven by current engine option A330-300s as opposed to the re-engined A330neos. The A330 order figures are also testament to the fact that Airbus did a much better job of bridging its production gap to the A330neo than Boeing did to the Boeing 777X. With just 58 net orders for the type, it is becoming increasingly apparent that Boeing will be forced to give in and cut production rates.
That being said, the wide body arena was a bright spot for Boeing, as the 787 resumed sales flow after a few years of stagnation while the A350’s sales momentum cooled. The 787 has now won more than 1,140 orders from customers around the world, more than 1.5 times the A350’s 775. Neither the A380 nor the Boeing 747-8 had a 2015 for the record books (or worthy of being written about in any book for that matter), but at least Boeing can take heart in knowing that it did not suffer through the “will they, won’t they” drama of the A380neo in 2015 and the much larger financial commitment made by Airbus overall.
But despite some positive signs at the upper end of the market for Boeing, 2015’s order and deliveries tally, both numerically and strategically, point to Airbus having the upper hand.