Airbus still leader in aircraft manufacturing in 2023

2024-01-05 06:00:00

Lit is tradition to compare the aircraft order and delivery figures of the two world leading companies each year, which in no way prejudges the turnover and financial results. Over the past fifteen years, Airbus has joined and then overtaken Boeing.

The objective of 720 aircraft delivered, set by Guillaume Faury, executive chairman of Airbus, would have been reached and even exceeded with 733 aircraft, according to data compiled by Aviation Flights Group. The aircraft manufacturer is expected to reveal its official delivery report during the month of January, according to stock market communications. Instead of the 400 to 450 deliveries of 737 Max initially planned, Boeing planned to deliver only between 375 and 400 single-aisle aircraft in 2023, weighed down by various quality problems. At the Dubai Air Show, it announced that it had delivered 34 aircraft in October, including 18 737 MAXs, an older model 737 NG which will be converted into the P-8 Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft, three 777-F freighters, six 767s and six 787 Dreamliner. For its part, Airbus delivered 71 aircraft in October. More than double.

This analysis of delivery figures is at least as important as that of orders. Indeed, when the aircraft manufacturer hands over the (symbolic) keys to the aircraft, it receives the balance of its price which can represent more than 80%. The deposits paid upon signing the contract and then during assembly are indeed very low. Also, at Airbus, as at Boeing, we are working to increase production rates and reduce delivery times.

On the podium of world aircraft manufacturers, there is no real third place. The Chinese Comac is stammering and its C919, a competitor to the A320 and B737 families, having not requested international certification, will remain operated by Chinese operators on Chinese (or compatible) networks. Far behind the two giants comes Embraer. The Brazilian aircraft manufacturer announces that its deliveries in 2023 will increase by 25.8% to reach 200 aircraft. Embraer would produce 65 to 70 airliners and 130 to 135 business jets. Once fourth, Bombardier was merged with Airbus and the medium-haul CSeries, renamed the Airbus A220.

The secrets of orders

Order results reflect the commercial performance of the aircraft manufacturers’ sales teams. The figures for the number of aircraft signed are rarely accompanied by the amount of the contract, which remains confidential, the aircraft manufacturer having no interest in indicating the discounts it has granted (or not) to the airline… Sometimes, it is possible to discover the price paid on a few obscure lines in the carrier’s annual balance sheet or in the state accounts if it is a national company.

In December alone, Airbus received more than 500 orders. No respite from the confectioners, during the last days of the year, easyJet ordered 157 additional Airbus A320s. The Lufthansa group has signed for 40 additional Airbus A220s. With 1,883 net orders signed in 2023, the European aircraft manufacturer beats its previous record, established in 2013 at 1,503 aircraft. Boeing is left behind with 945 net orders at the end of November, far from its 2014 record of 1,432 aircraft. Airbus’ order book is considerable, with more than 8,500 aircraft to be produced, representing more than eleven years of activity, while that of Boeing is, with 5,914 aircraft, 35% lower.

Other things left unsaid about orders, delivery dates are not revealed because they sometimes have a delay of eight to ten years. A range in years is sometimes indicated. These are strategic secrets showing the aircraft manufacturer production niches, where the competitor could position itself to fill them. For the airline, indicating the pace of deliveries would also be equivalent to revealing large parts of its growth plans linked to the arrival of additional aircraft. Both parties therefore remain tight-lipped.

Difficult return to production

The delivery score measures the industrial capabilities of aircraft manufacturers and their supply chains (supply chain). These were undermined with the sudden shutdowns of assembly lines linked to the 2020 pandemic, followed by a sudden restart of production. If the large groups (Safran, Thales, Daher, etc.) have adapted, the hundreds of SMEs concerned do not all immediately have the human and financial resources to keep up. Which explains the unfulfilled bet by Airbus of 700 deliveries in 2022. The European has only delivered 660… And the 700 will not arrive until 2023. At the end of November, Airbus had delivered 623 aircraft, Boeing, 461; these are the latest validated figures.

Airbus wants to go from 40 A320neo produced per month in 2020 to 75 per month in 2026, compared to 50 on average in 2023. Airbus has succeeded in strengthening its network of A320neo assembly plants so that all are capable of producing the highly demanded version of the A321neo. On December 27, the first model of this type assembled in the new final assembly line (FAL) in Toulouse, was delivered to the Turkish low cost Pegasus. This FAL will reach full capacity in 2025 and will produce part of the 5,600 A321neo ordered by more than a hundred companies. The European group will then be at the head of ten FALs installed on three continents (Toulouse and Hamburg in Europe, Mobile in the United States, Tianjin in China).

Added to these slownesses of supply chain, at Boeing, two production quality problems encountered making the number of aircraft delivered much lower than that of aircraft produced with significant financial consequences. The B737 MAX crisis with two fatal accidents and 346 victims caused the cessation of flights, production and deliveries. This drying up of financing resulted in massive storage of the aircraft produced. There are more than 200 left to sell. Another concern, the long-haul B787 Dreamliner, very profitable for the aircraft manufacturer, also experienced quality defects requiring the storage of around a hundred aircraft to be checked.

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