Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 17 January 2020

Airbus overtakes rival Boeing for first time since 2011 as 737 Max crisis drags on

European company becomes world's biggest plane maker with 863 jet deliveries in 2019

An Airbus A350 takes off at the aircraft builder's headquarters in Colomiers near Toulouse, France. Airbus delivered 863 jets in total in 2019, according to sources. Reuters.
An Airbus A350 takes off at the aircraft builder's headquarters in Colomiers near Toulouse, France. Airbus delivered 863 jets in total in 2019, according to sources. Reuters.

Airbus grabbed the title of world's biggest plane maker from its embattled US rival Boeing in 2019 after it delivered a forecast-beating 863 aircraft in the last year.

The Toulouse-based plane manufacturer won the top spot for the first time since 2011, as the crisis surrounding Boeing's grounded 737 Max drags on into 2020, Reuters reported, citing airport and tracking sources.

Airbus did not immediately respond to a request for comment when contacted by The National on Thursday.

The victory for Airbus, which reverses the ranking in the duopoly between the giant aerospace rivals, was anticipated after a tough year for the Chicago-based plane maker. The grounding of Boeing's best-selling narrowbody jet after two fatal crashes that killed 346 people had a profound impact on the company and the aviation industry. The disasters and their aftermath led to multiple regulatory and criminal investigations, hurt airline operations, disrupted suppliers and dented traveller confidence in the plane. Boeing ousted its chief executive Dennis Muilenburg, replacing him with chairman David Calhoun, in the hope of regaining trust.

The Airbus aircraft delivery figures highlight how far Boeing has to climb to recover its market position.

Airbus, which is grappling with its own industrial problems, beat its forecast of 860 jet deliveries by deploying extra resources until hours before midnight on New Year's Eve in France to reach 863 aircraft for the year, according to Reuters.

Airbus's plane deliveries in 2019 rose 7.9 per cent from 800 aircraft in 2018.

Airbus’s tally, which included around 640 narrowbody aircraft, broke industry records after it deployed thousands of workers and cancelled holidays to complete a buffer stock of semi-finished aircraft waiting to have their cabins adjusted, Reuters said.

Airbus's industrial delays, related to cabin fittings on its A321 Neo jets, have curtailed its ability to take advantage of the market turmoil surrounding Boeing’s 737 Max, grounded globally since March following the two fatal incidents.

Boeing delivered 345 mainly long-haul jets between January and November, less than half the number of 704 achieved in the same period of 2018, when the Max was being delivered normally. For the whole of 2018, Boeing delivered 806 aircraft.

Boeing's ongoing 737 Max woes marked a tumultuous year that forced the aviation industry to grapple with big questions such as whether the plane maker will overcome the Max debacle and if travellers will be too scared to fly on the jet.

Airbus shares rose about 3 per cent to €134 (Dh551) by 4pm UAE time after news of the plane delivery total that toppled Boeing as the world’s biggest jetmaker for the first time in eight years.

The duopoly has been locked in a fierce rivalry to win orders for new jets and claim the top spot in the aviation industry. The two are also in the midst of a World Trade Organisation dispute, accusing each other of being unfairly subsidised by their governments.

Boeing launched its 737 Max re-engined model in response to Airbus’s A320 Neo fuel-efficient single-aisle planes that became an instant hit with airlines.

Updated: January 2, 2020 05:01 PM