Airbus outpaces Boeing in 1,200-delivery year

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Aircraft numbers for last year are out, and nearly 1,200 commercial aircraft were delivered by Airbus and Boeing in the turbulent and unpredictable 2022 that the aviation industry weathered. 

As usual, most of the deliveries by numbers were on the narrowbody side of the industry by an order of magnitude, with Boeing delivering between two-thirds and three-quarters of Airbus’ overall total, depending on whether calculations include the A220, military 737s and business jets.

By any measure, Airbus delivered substantially more A320 family aircraft than Boeing did 737s, by 516 of the A320s to 387 of the 737s, of which the airframer says 13 were military aircraft and one a BBJ. To Airbus’ narrowbody total also needs to be added the 53 A220s the airframer delivered from its Mirabel and Mobile final assembly lines. 

On the widebody side, Airbus delivered 92 to Boeing’s 93, although the majority of Boeing’s total was non-passenger aircraft.

The European airframer delivered 60 A350 aircraft plus 32 A330s, although Airbus’ widebody total was asterisked by the removal of two A350 aircraft previously destined for Russian airline Aeroflot, and now prevented from delivery by sanctions, from the airframer’s sales list.

Only just over a third of the Boeing total — 31 Boeing 787 Dreamliners in the -8, -9 and -10 variants, plus three lessor 777-300ERs — came from passenger aircraft. Boeing was, for much of the year, prevented by its US Federal Aviation Administration regulator from delivering 787s owing to the production quality debacle dating back to problems found in 2020 that led to the full stoppage of deliveries in January 2021. 

The remainder of the Boeing total came from the KC-46 tanker based on the 767-200, plus last-generation freighters, including the 747-8F (the final 5 747s manufactured), 767F (18 aircraft) and 777F (21 examples).


Overall, the relative strength of the Airbus A320neo compared with the Boeing 737 MAX remains marked, though more notable is the growing number of A220s delivered compared with the 737 MAX and even the A320 as constraints within the larger single-aisle sector start to bite.

Few observers would have believed that the then-C Series would be delivered in numbers approaching its current 14 per cent of the total of 737 MAXes delivered. Similarly, the idea that a year in the 2020s ended with more Airbus A330s than 787 Dreamliners delivered would have seemed almost impossible just a few years ago.

In terms of wide impacts, as aviation seeks to return from travel restrictions and lockdowns caused by the Covid pandemic response — none of which are over, as recent events following the end of many restrictions within China show — the deliveries crystal ball of future predictions into which the industry is gazing remains hazy.

This uncertainty results from a number of sources.

First, Boeing was unable, through problems of its own making, to deliver Dreamliners for about two thirds of the year until they resumed in August.

Second, the market for the 737 MAX is constrained by several factors, including the reputational damage from the two crashes leading to the aircraft’s grounding and the much-anticipated approval by the Civil Aviation Administration of China for the country’s airlines — a major part of Boeing’s order book and the MAX’s in particular — to resume operation of the aircraft.

Third, the ongoing issues around the industry’s supply chain remain taut, whether around airframer or cabins, with 2022 marking another year where airlines took delivery of aircraft without business class seats installed, in this case Iberia and Airbus A350s.

Fourth, exogenous constraints on the industry continue. Russia’s ongoing war against Ukraine means that the resulting overflight bans continue, while the effect of Russian-operated aircraft that have essentially been stolen from their lessors and are unlikely ever to be permitted to operate in developed nations’ airspace again on the industry is not yet clear.

The mid-2020s are shaping up to be nearly as complex, complicated and constrained for aviation as they began.

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Featured image credited to Airbus SAS / Artem Tchaikovski – Master films