A Boeing 737 MAX 8
Boeing Co. outsold Airbus SE for the first time in three years as the 737 Max showed resilience after a global grounding. Image Credit: NYT

New York: Boeing Co. outsold Airbus SE for the first time in three years as the 737 Max showed resilience after a global grounding and as the COVID-19 pandemic spurred record demand for freighters.

The Chicago-based planemaker notched 909 gross orders last year, more than double its total for the previous two years combined, according to data posted on Boeing’s website Tuesday. Airbus on Monday reported 771 sales for the year.

Boeing rose 2.3 per cent to $214.14 at 11:59 a.m. in New York, logging the second-biggest gain on the Dow Jones Industrial Average. The stock had climbed 4 per cent this year through Monday.

The company still faces a difficult comeback as it works to shed debt and repair damage wrought by the coronavirus outbreak and a 20-month flying ban for the cash-cow Max after two fatal crashes. The company’s European rival is poised to dominate the narrow-body market for years, with a backlog of 6,314 single-aisle orders to 4,138 for Boeing.

Airbus has been quicker to recover from the pandemic, delivering 611 planes last year, compared with 340 for Boeing. The U.S. manufacturer is gradually boosting output of the Max after stopping production in 2020. The company also is working with U.S. regulators to restart deliveries of the twin-aisle 787 Dreamliner that have been largely halted for more than a year because of manufacturing flaws.

Boeing nevertheless netted sales of 140 wide-body jets last year, including 80 air freighters. And the company has made headway in re-establishing the Max. Since the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration approved the plane’s redesigned software in late 2020, more than 185 regulators worldwide have cleared the Max to fly, the company said.

United Airlines Holdings Inc., Southwest Airlines Co. and other carriers in Boeing’s home market helped spur interest in the Max by ordering 589 of the plane last year. Airlines were able to lock in near-term deliveries at favorable terms, anticipating that travel will snap back as the pandemic fades.

Outside the U.S., though, Airbus snatched high-profile wins from long-time Boeing 737 operators Qantas Airways Ltd. and Air France-KLM. The planemakers’ duel lasted through the last day of 2021, when Boeing secured a 50-jet Max order from Allegiant Travel Co.