Airbus, Boeing Celebrate Bountiful 2011

 - January 5, 2012, 12:09 PM
Sales of more than 1,000 A320-series jets, led by the new A320neo, propelled Airbus's 2011 order total past 1,300. (Photo: Airbus)

Airbus and Boeing each finished 2011 with some robust order figures by any standard, but during a time of a tediously slow recovery from economic recession, last year’s figures proved all the more impressive. Still, if one were inclined to view the companies’ respective performances as a race to market share, Airbus appeared to emerge as the clear winner, at least in terms of total unit sales.

Expected to release its official results on January 17, Airbus had registered enough orders by the end of November to account for a net total of 1,378 airplanes, including 1,064 A320s and 239 A321s, thanks largely to the wildly successful introduction of the re-engined version of the narrowbody types known as the Neo. However, its widebody sales performance—which, of course, represents bigger dollar values—proved far more modest, accounting for only 71 units, including nine A380s and a net loss of 19 A350s.

For the month of December, Airbus announced only the conversion of a memorandum of understanding to a firm order for eight A320neos by Russia’s Transaero. Assuming no further cancellations or unannounced orders during the month, the company would have finished the year with a net order count of 1,386 airplanes.

Although the Airbus projection beats Boeing’s confirmed net sales total of 805 by a fairly wide margin, Boeing enjoyed a far stronger year in the widebody segment, registering orders for 254 airplanes, including a record two hundred 777s. It also reported “commitments” for more than 1,000 of the new, re-engined version of its 737NG known as the 737MAX, many, if not most of which it expects to convert to firm orders this year.

All told, Boeing delivered 477 airplanes last year, including a somewhat disappointing three 787s and nine 747-8s. Its latest estimates, issued during last year’s third-quarter earnings briefing, called for a combined delivery total of between 15 and 20 of the newly certified airplanes. As a result, it barely fell short of its October projection for a delivery total of 480 units.

Airbus, meanwhile, last projected it would deliver between 520 and 530 airplanes last year.