Airbus and Boeing Both Shatter Commercial Airplane Delivery Records as Rivalry Intensifies

Jan 30, 2019

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The golden age of aviation may well be right now. Boeing today unveiled its full-year 2018 results, and Wall Street is lapping it up. The company’s stock price shot up nearly 7% following impressive results, as it delivered a record-breaking 806 commercial airliners last year. That’s up 6% from the 763 jets it delivered in 2017, and it’s expecting roughly the same amount of deliveries in 2019.

Boeing is riding high on deliveries of Dreamliners across the globe (145 in 2018 versus 136 in 2017), along with marked year-over-year upticks with 737 (580 in 2018 versus 529 in 2017) and 767 (27 in 2018 versus 10 in 2017). Of note, Boeing did see drops in 747 deliveries (6 in 2018 versus 14 in 2017) and 777 deliveries (48 in 2018 versus 74 in 2017).

Perhaps more impressive than Boeing’s own achievements is the soaring aviation industry as a whole. Airbus, the primary rival of Boeing, also managed to break the 800 mark for the first time in 2018. Airbus recorded 800 commercial airline deliveries last year, representing a staggering 11.4% increase from the 718 it delivered in 2017.

With Delta beginning Airbus A220 flights in February (along with 75 firm orders behind its initial few), expanding its order for Airbus A330-900neos from 25 to 35 and offering its flagship business class product — Delta One Suites — on the Airbus A350, there’s plenty of domestic momentum to harp on. Internationally, Airbus saw 17% of its deliveries come from Europe, 4% from the Middle East and Africa, 34% from the booming Asia region and 31% from leasing operations.

To put things in perspective, 2018 was the first year in recorded history that either Boeing or Airbus hit 800+ commercial airliner deliveries — and they both hit it in the same year. This isn’t one vendor stealing business from the other. This is a rising tide lifting all remaining boats.

To boot, the delivery gap between the rivals hasn’t been this close in years. From 2013 through 2018, Boeing was growing its lead in a major way, separating itself from a mere three plane delta in 2012 (588 commercial deliveries for Airbus; 601 for Boeing). Airbus hasn’t topped Boeing in annual commercial deliveries since an impressive multi-year run from 2003 to 2011, but it’s tantalizingly close to recapturing that crown.

More practically, this is fabulous news for flyers. With more new deliveries and impressive 2019 forecasts, it means that newer planes are entering fleets faster than ever. That translates to better technology and advancements like memory foam seats on the A330-900neo, a modular IFE system on the A220, airlines offering business class seating for the first time and innovations in keeping cabins quiet.

With any luck, it’ll also mean more low level award space on some of the newest, swankiest products hitting the sky.

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