Using data from the third quarter 2023 order and delivery from Airbus and Boeing, an analysis by Simple Flying examines the sales and aircraft deliveries competition between the two leading aircraft manufacturers.
Airbus is looking to stabilise deliveries
Airbus started Q3 2023 with 65 total aircraft deliveries. However, during the following two months, the European manufacturer delivered 52 and 55 aircraft, respectively, finishing the third quarter with a total of 172 deliveries.
Naturally, the bulk of these deliveries were its single-aisle jets, namely the Airbus A220 and A320neo family aircraft, including the smallest variant, the A319neo. Regarding the former, in total, the planemaker handed over 16 A220-300s in Q3 2023. It had no A220-100 deliveries neither in Q3 nor this year thus far. The company’s filings showed that out of the 95 orders for the smallest A220 variant, it has delivered 56 of them. Meanwhile, data from another source showed that Airbus’ latest A220-100 delivery was to Delta Air Lines in March 2022, with the manufacturer also delivering an ACJ220-100 to Comlux the same year.
In terms of the A320neo aircraft family, Airbus delivered 135 A319neo, A320neo, and A321neos in Q3. The deliveries are split between three A319neos (all to Tibet Airlines), 57 A320neos, and 75 A321neos. The numbers primarily represent a trend that has been visible for the past few years: the A321neo is the manufacturer’s most popular narrowbody aircraft.
Looking at widebody aircraft deliveries, Airbus’ customers received 21 twin-aisle jets in Q3. The largest share of these was in July 2023 (11), with the European OEM only delivering three widebodies in August 2023. The following month, Airbus handed over seven twin-aisle jets.
Out of the 21 Q3 widebody deliveries, 11 of them were the A350-900, with Airbus also delivering four A350-1000s. For the A330neo series, the manufacturer delivered six A330-900s, with no A330-800 or A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) shipments during the quarter. Its last A330 MRTT delivery was in May 2023. Air Greenland took in the most recent A330-800 in November 2022.
As such, with only a single A330-800 order in 2023, questions are pending about the future of the smallest A330neo family aircraft. According to Airbus’ filings, out of the 12 total orders, it has already delivered seven of them, meaning only five unfilled orders remain: four to Garuda Indonesia and a single private aircraft that an unspecified client ordered in May.
Orders’ peaks and valleys
In terms of orders, Airbus’ year has been turbulent. While, at times, customers signed up for single or double-digit aircraft orders, some airlines ordered unbelievable quantities of jets from the European OEM, like IndiGo’s record-breaking order for 500 Airbus A320neo family aircraft or Air India’s order, which was confirmed during the Paris Air Show in June 2023.
During Q3, the peak order came from Wizz Air, which ordered 75 Airbus A321neo aircraft in August. Other notable orders include Turkish Airlines’ deal for 10 A350-900s, the lessor Avolon finalising its Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for 20 A330-900s, and Turkey-based Pegasus Airlines’ purchase of 36 A321neo aircraft.
In total, Airbus booked 200 orders during Q3 2023, yet only 23 orders in September. This includes the aforementioned Turkish Airlines A350-900 order, as well as LATAM Airlines ordering 13 A321neo aircraft just as it received its first aircraft of the type in October 2023. While the order was announced in October 2023, Airbus booked it on September 14, 2023, according to the filing.
Boeing’s continuous supply chain struggles
While both manufacturers have experienced supply chain-related issues, resulting in aircraft delivery delays, problems at Boeing were exacerbated by production quality lapses at Spirit AeroSystems. The supplier, which helps manufacture 737 fuselages at its Wichita, Kansas, United States site, announced a quality issue related to the 737 aft bulkhead in late August 2023.
During the Jefferies Industrials Conference in September 2023, Brian West, chief financial officer, as well as executive vice president of finance at Boeing, admitted that the issue “will impact deliveries” in the near-term future. However, in October 2023, The Air Current reported that both Boeing and Spirit AeroSystems expanded the scope of the inspections related to the aft pressure bulkhead’s manufacturing defect, which could further impact 737 MAX and P8 Poseidon deliveries.
As such, Boeing delivered 105 aircraft during Q3 2023, 69 of which were the 737 MAX, while one was a 737 military derivative, the P8 Poseidon. In comparison, in Q2 2023, Boeing delivered 103 737 MAX and P8 Poseidons. Q3 2023 widebody aircraft deliveries numbered 35, split between five KC-46s, based on the 767 airframe, three 767Fs to FedEx, eight 777Fs, and 19 787s, including a SAUDIA Boeing 787-10 with the airline’s new livery. A quarter prior, the OEM delivered 33 twin-aisle aircraft.
A commercially fruitful September
Out of the 321 gross orders Boeing booked in Q3 2023, 224 came in September 2023, including large orders by Ryanair and United Airlines. During the quarter, Boeing booked 200 737 MAX orders, one 777F order from an unidentified customer, and 120 orders for all three 787 models.
Notable orders during the quarter include the already mentioned Ryanair and United Airlines deals, with the carriers ordering 150 737 MAX 10 and 50 787-9s, respectively. Boeing booked both in September, and United Airlines announced the deal in early October, while Ryanair’s order was initially disclosed in May 2023.
Other noteworthy orders include Air Canada buying 18 Boeing 787-10s and SAUDIA firming up 39 Dreamliners in July 2023. Boeing also booked four different orders for the 787 from unidentified customer(s), with the unnamed airline(s) ordering 13 examples of the type. In addition, barring Ryanair, four different customers bought or firmed up their 737 MAX orders, including Aviation Capital Group (13 units), Luxair (four), SMBC Aviation Capital (25), and one order from an unidentified customer with eight orders for Boeing’s single-aisle jet.
Airbus running away with the competition
While production issues with Boeing’s aircraft within the cash-cow market that is the single-aisle jet sector naturally resulted in the US-based OEM lagging behind its European counterpart, Airbus has also secured more orders during the year. The European planemaker has delivered 488 aircraft Year-to-Date (YTD) to September 30, 2023, with the large majority of those deliveries being its narrowbody aircraft, namely the A220-300, A319neo, A320neo, and A321neo. Of those, the most popular was the A321neo, with 222 deliveries YTD. In addition, Airbus also delivered two A330 MRTT, 18 A330-900, 27 A350-900, and nine A350-1000s during the year.
In comparison, Boeing delivered a total of 371 aircraft YTD. Two hundred eighty were the 737 MAXs, with the plane maker also handing over six P8 Poseidons by the end of Q3. Other deliveries included the last-ever Boeing 747 delivery to Atlas Air, six KC-46 tankers, 11 767Fs, which is a programme that has also encountered production issues of its own during 2023, and 17 777Fs, including Silk Way West Airlines’ first aircraft of the type. Within the 787 programme, Boeing delivered 50 aircraft YTD: nine 787-8, 25 787-9, and 16 787-10s.
Commercially, Airbus has led into the last quarter of the year. The European OEM’s gross orders numbered 1,280 YTD, primarily driven by the aforementioned large orders from IndiGo and Air India. Its backlog also grew since Airbus and Qatar Airways settled on an agreement following their dispute, with the manufacturer adding back 50 A321neo and 23 A350-1000 orders to its books in February 2023.
Meanwhile, Boeing’s orders number 848 aircraft YTD. Apart from the already discussed SAUDIA, Ryanair, United Airlines, and other airlines’ orders, the manufacturer added Riyadh Air’s 787 order in June 2023, as well as 16 777X aircraft from Emirates. However, considering that the gross and net orders of the 777-8 differ by 35 units, it could be presumed that Boeing re-accounted the Dubai-based airline’s 777X orders.