Both Companies Report Strong March Deliveries. Boeing is Ahead Year-to-Date.
Boeing and Airbus delivered 64 and 61 commercial jets in March 2023, compared to 41 and 63 deliveries, respectively, in the same month last year. Year-to-date, Boeing and Airbus have delivered 130 and 127 aircraft, compared to 95 and 142, respectively, in the first quarter of 2022. After the first three months of the year, Boeing is 35 deliveries ahead of, and Airbus is 15 deliveries behind, last year’s totals to date. In 2022, Airbus won the deliveries crown for the fourth year in a row by delivering 663 aircraft, compared to Boeing’s 480 shipments. In 2021, Boeing and Airbus delivered 340 and 611 aircraft.
Following a more than challenging 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 2021 and 2022 were recovery years for the two largest commercial plane makers. Another year of recovery for the commercial aircraft manufacturing industry can be expected in 2023 despite ongoing supply chain challenges, inflation and higher interest rates, labor shortages, and the war in Ukraine. However, Boeing and Airbus still have quite a way to go before deliveries are back to pre-pandemic levels. In 2018, before COVID-19 and the 737 MAX grounding, Boeing delivered 806 jets, a level that will likely not be recaptured before the 2025-26 timeframe. Airbus’ all-time record high of 863 shipments was set in 2019, a level that could be surpassed in 2024 if supply chain challenges ease, but most likely not before 2025. Also, Airbus is expected to retain the deliveries lead for the foreseeable future due to the company’s comfortable backlog lead over its American rival. Prior to 2019, Boeing had out-delivered Airbus every year since 2012.
As indicated above, in March 2023, Boeing delivered 64 jets, including 53 737s (52 MAXs and one NG), one 767, three 777s, and seven 787s. Since June of last year, the 737 program has been producing aircraft at an official rate of 31 per month. The monthly production trend is expected to remain in the low 30s for now, but will be increased as soon as the supply chain allows. For 2023, Boeing now targets an average rate of between 33 and 38 737s per month, or 400-450 for the year. Due to very strong 737 MAX deliveries in March, Boeing delivered 38 737s per month, on average, in the first quarter of the year; however, this figure includes aircraft from inventory. Longer term, Boeing expects to increase production to approximately 50 jets per month in the 2025/26 timeframe. This compares to the pre-crash/pre-pandemic rate of 52 737s per month in 2018. Recently, it was reported that the company is planning to boost production to 52 jets per month by January 2025. The company plans to open a fourth 737 MAX production line in Renton in the second half of 2024. Boeing ended the fourth quarter with 250 737 MAX jets in inventory, down 20 from Q3 2022. Customers in China account for 138 of these aircraft. At present, Boeing’s main supply chain headache is its engine supply. Boeing expects that supply chain constraints will remain a significant challenge in 2023. The company is still producing 737 NGs, but only has 23 737-800s remaining in backlog.
On April 14, Boeing announced that a manufacturing issue affecting a significant number of undelivered 737 MAX airplanes, both in production and in storage, has been discovered. The company stressed that the problem is not an immediate safety of flight issue and that the in-service fleet can continue operating safely. Spirit AeroSystems, which produces the 737s fuselage, reportedly used a non-standard manufacturing process during the installation of two fittings in the rear fuselage. Spirit AeroSystems is working to develop an inspection and repair plan for the affected fuselages. Boeing expects lower near-term 737 MAX deliveries due to the issue.
In August of last year, deliveries of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner were resumed following a suspension of shipments that lasted nearly 16 months. Boeing had suspended Dreamliner deliveries in May 2021 for the second time in less than a year. The current 787 production rate is two aircraft per month. However, in connection with the release of Boeing’s fourth quarter and full-year 2022 earnings, the company announced it will return to five per month by the end of 2023 (for a total of 70-80 deliveries for the year), followed by further increases before reaching 10 aircraft per month by 2025/26. Boeing ended the fourth quarter with 100 Dreamliners in inventory, down 15 from Q3 2022. Most of these aircraft will be delivered during 2023 and 2024.
The 747 program closed down production when the last aircraft was delivered to Atlas Air on January 31 (note: for some reason, this aircraft was still on Boeing’s books at the end of January but was removed in February). The 767 program is currently producing at a rate of three units per month, a mix of KC-46 tankers (based on the 767-2C) and 767-300 freighters. The 777 program is currently pushing out aircraft at a rate of two per month. Most aircraft in backlog are 777 freighters, with only six 777-300ERs left. The 777 program was expected to get a new addition in late 2023 with the first delivery of the 777X, but in April of last year Boeing announced this will now not happen before 2025. This reflects an updated assessment of the time required to meet certification requirements. In January 2022, Boeing launched a new 777X-based freighter, thereby expanding its 777X and cargo portfolio. By the 2025/26 timeframe, Boeing expects to be delivering four 777s per month.
In March 2023, Airbus delivered 61 jets, including five A220s, 51 A320s (all NEO), three A330s, and two A350s. The official A320 production rate is 45 aircraft per month and has remained at this level since the end of 2021. On average, the company delivered 43 A320s per month in 2022 but has only delivered 35 per month during the first quarter of this year. Current plans call for production to be increased later this year until reaching a monthly rate of 65 by late 2024 (pushed back twice now due to supply chain challenges). Also, Airbus is working with its supply chain to increase A320 production to 75 aircraft per month in 2026 (pushed back from 2025).
The A220, meanwhile, is being produced at a rate of six aircraft per month, with a monthly production rate of nine expected by 2025. The A350 production rate currently averages five per month and was expected to be increased to six by early 2023. However, the rate increase is likely being delayed until the end of 2023. The A330 production rate was increased from two aircraft per month to three at the end of 2022, with an increase to four per month expected in 2024.
Turning to the March orders review, Boeing had a solid month and booked orders from six customers for a total of 60 jets (gross orders). However, the company also reported 22 cancellations (16 737 MAXs and six 787s), resulting in 38 net new orders. Japan Airlines ordered 21 737 MAXs (all 737-8), followed by an undisclosed customer which booked 17 737 MAXs. The 787 was in demand in March with 20 aircraft added to Boeing’s books including eight 787-8s for an undisclosed customer, seven 787-9s for Lufthansa, and five 787-9s for Taiwan’s Evergreen Airways aka EVA Air. Finally, Luxair ordered two 737 MAXs (737-8s). Year-to-date, Boeing has accumulated 56 net new orders (120 gross orders), compared to 145 net new orders (167 gross orders) in the first quarter of last year. In 2022, Boeing booked 774 net new orders (935 gross orders), up from 479 net new orders (909 gross orders) in 2021 (before ASC 606 changes). Please note that for comparison reasons, we do not include Boeing’s so-called ASC 606 accounting adjustments in the numbers reported in this article and regard net new orders as gross orders minus cancellations.
In March, Airbus had a quiet month and booked orders for 20 aircraft from three different customers and reported two A320neo family cancellations, for a total of 18 net new orders. In March, Lufthansa ordered 15 A350s (10 A350-1000s and five A350-900s), while an undisclosed customer booked four A350 freighters. Finally, a private customer ordered a single A319neo. Year-to-date, Airbus has accumulated 142 net new orders (156 gross orders), compared to 83 net new orders (253 gross orders) in the first quarter of last year. In 2022, Airbus booked 820 net new orders (1,078 gross orders), surpassing both 2021 gross orders and net new orders. In 2022, Airbus won the orders crown for the fourth consecutive year by a fairly slim margin of just 46 aircraft compared to Boeing. In 2021, Airbus booked a total of 771 gross orders and received 264 cancellations, for a total of 507 net new orders.
At the end of March, Airbus reported a backlog of 7,254 jets, of which 6,604, or 91 percent, were A220 and A320ceo/neo family narrowbodies. This is 471 aircraft below the company’s all-time backlog record of 7,725 aircraft set in January 2020. By the end of last month, Boeing’s backlog (total unfilled orders before ASC 606 adjustment) was 5,356 aircraft, of which 4,219, or 79 percent, were 737 NG/MAX narrowbody jets. Boeing’s all-time backlog high of 5,964 aircraft was set in August 2018. The number of Airbus aircraft to be built and delivered represents 8.4 years of shipments at the 2019 production level (the pre-pandemic level), or 10.9 years based on the 2022 total. In comparison, Boeing’s backlog would “only” last 6.7 years at the 2018 level (the most recent “normal” year for Boeing), or 11.2 years based on 2022 deliveries. As of March 31, Boeing’s book-to-bill ratio this year, calculated as net new orders divided by deliveries, is 0.43, compared to Airbus at 1.12. In 2022, Boeing’s book-to-bill ratio was a very strong 1.61. Meanwhile, Airbus’ book-to-bill ratio was a solid 1.24.
Forecast International’s Platinum Forecast System is a breakthrough in forecasting technology that provides 15-year production forecasts. The author has used the Platinum Forecast System to retrieve the latest delivery forecast data from the Civil Aircraft Forecast product. For 2023, Forecast International’s analysts currently expect Boeing and Airbus to deliver 500 and 710 commercial jets, respectively. Please note that these figures exclude militarized variants of commercial platforms such as Boeing’s P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft and KC-46 Pegasus tanker and Airbus’ A330 MRTT tanker.
Boeing released its Q4 and full-year 2022 results in January and reaffirmed its 2023 deliveries guidance. In November of last year, Boeing announced that it expects to deliver 400-450 737s and 70-80 787s in 2023, which equates to a monthly average of 33-38. Boeing will present its Q1 2023 results on April 26. Airbus presented its fourth quarter and full-year 2022 results in February and is targeting 720 commercial jet deliveries in 2023. Airbus’ first quarter 2023 results will be released on May 3.
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