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Boeing Beats Airbus on Orders: How Will the Rivals Fare Ahead?

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Archan Sarkar
·3 min read
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The Boeing Company BA recently achieved the unthinkable, considering the struggle the jet maker has endured in the past two years for its commercial product line. Boeing, for the first time in more than two years, has toppled its archrival, Airbus SE EADSY, courtesy of higher net quarterly orders. This is the first occasion on which Boeing has overtaken Airbus with respect to quarterly orders since the 737 Max was grounded in March 2019, which made Airbus the world’s top plane maker in early 2020.

What Kept Boeing Behind?

A series of problems related to the 737 Max caused Boeing to lag its European counterpart, both in terms of orders and deliveries, and slip to the second position in the list of global aircraft manufacturers. Although the COVID-19 pandemic played its part in Boeing's disastrous 2020 results, 737 Max’s grounding was the primary reason behind the company’s declining fortunes. Notably, in 2019, Boeing could only deliver 157 jets, the lowest in 43 years.

Boeing Ahead of  Airbus So Far in 2021

Boeing commenced 2021 on a fairly positive note after its beleaguered 737 Max was certified by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in November 2020 to fly again. The approval was a major turnaround for Boeing as airliners and aircraft operators across the world began to reinstill their faith in the 737 line of aircraft.

Interestingly, the approval seems to have positively impacted Boeing's numbers so far in 2021, as it won 282 aircraft orders in total compared to cancellations of 76 planes. On the contrary, Airbus had a poor beginning to the year, which is evident from the mere 39 orders it received till Mar 31 in comparison to 100 aircraft cancellations.

The month of March was arguably the best for Boeing since March 2019, as the aircraft giant won orders for 185 of its 737 Max planes, including a 100-jet order from Southwest Airlines LUV and orders for 25 additional Max jets placed by United Airlines UAL. But what possibly aided Boeing in toppling Airbus were the numerous cancellations of Airbus jets made by Scandinavian carrier, Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA.

Where Does the Rivalry Go From Here?

Although Boeing has been able to topple Airbus in terms of orders so far in 2021, it is still way behind its rival in terms of deliveries made. Boeing delivered 77 aircraft during the first quarter compared with Airbus’ 125 jets. Although Boeing has managed to record a massive turnaround, the company still has a long list of issues to tackle.

Per a recent CNN report, Boeing drew criticism for a new problem related to its electrical system with the troubled 737 Max. This could later have a serious impact as the company might have to again ground some of its jets. Moreover, with the global surge in coronavirus cases, both the aircraft giants are likely to witness turmoil in the coming months.

It is difficult to predict precisely the future of this rivalry amid all these uncertainties. But keeping in consideration the recent order growth for Boeing’s 737 Max, Airbus will have a difficult time in regaining its number one position in 2021.

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