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Airbus Outsells Boeing, Sets Sights on Deliveries Crown

Updated on
  • Indigo deal helps group to more than 1,000 jet orders in 2017
  • U.S. rival still No. 1 planemaker, but by only 45 aircraft
Airbus sales chief John Leahy talks about the A380 and his succession.

Airbus SE widened its order lead over Boeing Co. in 2017 following a record year of jet sales, prompting the European manufacturer to talk up prospects for overtaking the North American giant by deliveries.

Airbus booked contracts for 1,109 airliners, or 52 percent more than in 2016, the Toulouse, France-based company said in a statement Monday, extending the margin over Boeing to 197 aircraft as its rival secured 912 net orders.

While Boeing retains the title of world’s biggest planemaker after delivering an all-time high of 763 aircraft versus Airbus’s 718, the order tally represents a coup for the European group after it lagged behind for much of 2017, even enduring a sales defeat in its own backyard at the Paris Air Show in June.

Airbus has now outsold Boeing for six straight years, encouraging the company to predict that it’s just a few more away from also out-delivering its Seattle-based competitor, something last achieved in 2011. The group’s overall backlog stands at an industry record 7,265 planes, compared with 5,864 at Boeing.

“I bet that in 2020 we will deliver more aircraft than Boeing,” Chief Operating Officer Fabrice Bregier, who stands down next month, said on a conference call. “I’m not the outgoing guy saying now everything is perfect, you just push a button, it will deliver. There will be challenges as always at Airbus, but these challenges are manageable.”

In the last month of 2017 Airbus booked 776 aircraft sales net of cancellations, including a $50 billion deal for 430 A320-series narrow-body aircraft initially announced in November at the Dubai Air Show. The order from Indigo Partners, Airbus’s biggest ever, will be split between airlines including European discounter Wizz Air Holdings Plc and U.S.-based Frontier Airlines Holdings Inc.

Airbus has held an order lead over Boeing since 2012, spurred by sales chief John Leahy, who is set to retire in coming weeks. That the A320 ultimately outsold Boeing’s 737 will be especially sweet for Leahy, after the launch of a new 737 Max 10 variant handed the U.S. company its Paris victory.

Airbus’s delivery tally meant it met a target of handing over at least 700 planes in the year, something that had appeared a major challenge amid engine issues with the upgraded A320neo, mostly at U.S. supplier Pratt & Whitney. In the event, the company produced 558 of the jets as it moves toward output of 60 a month across assembly lines in three continents. The total could even go as high as 65 or 70 a month, Bregier said.

Airbus also delivered 78 A350s, its newest wide-body, though production of the A380 superjumbo fell to just 15 planes, and the model won no new orders.

The planemaker has increased the average list prices of its aircraft by 2 percent across the product line, effective from Jan. 1.

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