Boeing and Airbus logos
A year-end order bonanza for Airbus SE has swept away most of the lead built up by Boeing Co. in 2021. Image Credit: AFP

London: A year-end order bonanza for Airbus SE has swept away most of the lead built up by Boeing Co. in 2021, and even put the European planemaker in position to claim bragging rights for the year based on net commitments.

Boeing amassed an order advantage in early 2021 fueled by pent-up demand for its 737 Max as the single-aisle workhorse came off a two-year grounding. Through October, its lead stood at 428 aircraft, based on figures reported by the two planemakers.

But Airbus cashed in during the last two months of the year, notching major wins at the Dubai Airshow in November and snatching narrow-body accounts at Qantas Airways Ltd and Air France-KLM in December.

As of December 31, the order gap had shrunk to 58 planes, based on a Bloomberg calculation of announced orders.

On a net basis, Airbus may be in position to claim victory.

Through November, Boeing had reported 457 net orders for 2021, with Airbus trailing at 368. But the European manufacturer’s December haul, including 40 firm orders from leasing firm Aviation Capital Group, pushed its annual total to about 548 before netting out any cancellations that haven’t been disclosed. That compares with 476 for Boeing, which notched a December freighter deal with UPS.

The final tally won’t be known until both companies report year-end orders and deliveries in early January.

It’s entirely possible that Airbus will disclose a slew of cancellations and fall short of catching Chicago-based Boeing even on a net basis. With Covid-19 continuing to roil airline finances, both manufacturers have endured clawbacks that shaved hundreds of orders off their books.

The contract wins will nonetheless reassure executives at Toulouse, France-based Airbus that the planemaker has bolstered its case with suppliers for a planned production increase.

As of November, Airbus led with 518 aircraft deliveries toward an annual goal of 600 for the year. Boeing had handed over 302 jets, as a pickup in 737 Max deliveries was offset by production problems on its larger 787 Dreamliners.