Deliveries of military planes and freighters helped Boeing reduce the gap for Airbus

US planemaker claims to have delivered 157 commercial planes, but 25 of them were maritime patrol and air refueling aircraft

Officially, Boeing delivered 157 commercial aircraft in 2020 against 566 Airbus planes, but analyzing the figures closely it is possible to say that the difference between the two manufacturers was greater. The reason is that the US planemaker includes military jets in its totals, something that the European rival also does, but to a lesser extent.

Last year, Boeing delivered 11 Boeing 767-200, actually the KC-46, adopted by the U.S. Air Force as an air refueling aircraft. In addition to it, the manufacturer also included 14 Boeing 737-800, but in this case they are P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, for the US and UK navies.

Without these 25 planes and a BBJ (business aircraft), the total number of commercial aircraft delivered by Boeing drops to 131 units, 35 of which were shipped to customers in December.

The review of Airbus data points out that 560 jets were actually delivered in 2020. The remaining six planes were an A350-900 received by Lufthansa Technik, but which is being used as a presidential aircraft by the German government, and five MRTT freighters , military version of the A330-200. In other words, the difference between the two airframers in 2020 was 429 aircraft instead of 409 units.

Military and VIP aircraft not included

Return of the 737 MAX

Roughly speaking, Airbus had an even more overwhelming performance compared to Boeing if we consider only passenger jetliners. That’s because the US company offers cargo versions of some of its models, something that the Toulouse-based company doesn’t yet do.

Cargo plane deliveries accounted for a third of the total number of aircraft handed over to its customers, or 46 units, among models 767-300F, 777F and 747-8F. These aircraft had a boost in the market due to the growth in air cargo demand, stimulated by the pandemic. If only passenger planes are taken into account, Boeing delivered only 85 units while Airbus maintained 560 units, or 660% more.

Airbus Un.
A220-100 10
A220-300 28
A319ceo 3
A320ceo 3
A321ceo 9
A320neo 253
A321neo 178
A330-200 0
A330-300 1
A330-800 3
A330-900 10
A350-900 44
A350-1000 14
A380 4
Total 560

The European planemaker, as expected, surpassed Boeing in almost all criteria, mainly because the rival was banned from delivering the 737 MAX for eleven months and also experienced quality problems with the 787, the aircraft that most delivered last year (53 planes). But in terms of widebodies, the Americans did better, with 103 jets versus 76 for Airbus.

The month-to-month delivery chart also shows that Boeing took longer to regain a more massive delivery pace, something it only achieved in December, when it can send 26 737 MAX to its customers. Airbus, which delivered 88 planes in the last month of 2020, also recorded its best result for the year, but the company has managed to progressively resume deliveries since April.

Boeing Un.
737 MAX 26
737-800 2
747-8F 5
767-300F 22
777-300ER 4
777F 19
787-10 10
787-8 5
787-9 38
Total 131

Deliveries by categories

Only considering planes configured with seats, Airbus led in all categories, with the exception of the range between 240 and 300 seats, where Boeing achieved a better result with the 787-8 and 787-9. The European company has lost by far with the new generation of the A330neo, which has not won many customers. In turn, the A350-900 had 44 deliveries against just 10 of the 787-10.

In other categories, the situation was much more favorable to Airbus. In narrowbodies with up to 150 seats, the company has no competitor for the A220 while the grounding of the 737 MAX gave the A320 and A321 a large advantage, with 443 deliveries against only 28 for Boeing.

In the category above 350 seats, Boeing had only four deliveries of the 777-300ER while Airbus sent its customers 14 A350-1000 and four A380, the largest passenger plane in the world and about to end production.

The scenario is likely to change in 2021, especially since Boeing has about 400 737 MAX jets ready for delivery, due to the long period during which they were banned from flying. It is highly likely that Airbus will lead again this year, but the difference will be milder, if there are no unpleasant surprises.

Category Boeing Un. Un. Airbus
Up to 150 seats 0 41 A220/A319
150-240 seats 737NG/MAX 28 443 A320/A321
240-300 seats 787-8/-9 43 14 A330
300-350 seats 787-10 10 44 A350-900
350+ seats 77W 4 18 A350-1000/A380
Total 85 560 Total
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