Airbus delivered almost 100 fewer aircraft last year, but booked 1,036 orders versus 768 for Boeing.
The difference was down to the A320 line, which outsold the 737 family by 897 aircraft to Boeing’s 588.
In contrast, there were 180 widebody orders for the US manufacturer against 139 for Airbus, whose 2015 appraisal included news that the A380 programme had broken even, 10 years after the superjumbo’s first flight.
The upshot is that the two competitors’ combined backlog has swollen to 12,582 aircraft, of which Airbus holds 54 per cent.
In 2018 the Toulouse-based manufacturer expects to overtake Boeing in deliveries as well, though production ramp-ups at both companies sit uneasily with some.
Like Boeing, Airbus currently produces 42 narrowbodies per month, but intends to raise that to 60 by mid-2019. Boeing, meanwhile, plans by 2018 to roll off 52 737NGs and 737 MAXs per month from its Renton, Washington plants, though the exact mix hasn’t been specified.
Both the A320neo and 737 MAX were launched at a time when oil cost more than $100 per barrel and interest rates were close to zero. Cheap money and expensive fuel prompted airlines to splurge on new aircraft, but with rates starting to rise and oil sloshing stubbornly around $30, the old rationale is being undermined.
If airlines do decide to stick with the best current-gen equipment for longer, the effects on Airbus and Boeing plants won’t be felt until the 2020s, when neo and MAX production really gears up.
Airbus has said that its current backlog is enough to sustain higher rates even if there is a dip in orders. We’ll have to wait and see what the next decade brings.