Boeing announced its fourth-quarter deliveries for 2020, and for the whole year. They’re the lowest since the Boeing Bust in 1971. In total, the manufacturer delivered 157 aircraft last year.
Before 2020, 2019 had already been a lousy year for Boeing deliveries. The MAX crisis meant that they could no longer rely on their ‘bread-maker’ single-aisle jet. Each of the widebodies makes much more money for all manufacturers, but the single-aisles account for the bulk of the sales. In that year, Boeing delivered 380 jets, down from 806 in 2018. It just couldn’t get any worse. And then, it did.
Already in 2018, Boeing’s record 806 deliveries made them a bit nervous. Airbus was breathing down their backs, with 800 deliveries. Come 2019 when the MAX crisis hit Boeing, Airbus delivered a record 863 aircraft. In 2020, Airbus still made more aircraft deliveries (566) than Boeing did in 2019 (380).
Boeing had to face a triple whammy of trouble in this time. First of course came the MAX crisis. Boeing initially hoped to recertify the MAX before the end of 2019. Those plans started to look sketchy by the summer of that year. Then in 2020 came corona, and the unwillingness of airlines to take deliveries from Boeing or Airbus. And finally, last summer Boeing found problems in 787 assembly.
With 737 deliveries stopped and those for the 787 faltering, Boeing stood no chance to compete with Airbus. The only Boeing deliveries for most of 2020 involved the 787 (at an ever reducing rate), the 747, 777 and 767 freighters. Adding insult to injury, when Boeing’s single-aisle could no longer make deliveries in 2019, Airbus added a second single-aisle in the A220. And Airbus is looking to increase aircraft production, beyond any level Boeing can hope in the near future.
Better News For Boeing After 2020?
There is a glimmer of good news for Boeing. The stalled deliveries of Boeing’s 737 MAX jumped to 31 for the last quarter of 2020, with the plane’s ungrounding. 27 of these came in December alone. The manufacturer will depend on this jet for its resurgence in 2021. With the low occupancy in the pandemic putting a premium on efficiency, the airlines certainly need the MAX.
But Boeing’s troubles are far from over. The hit in its prestige meant that their order book took an unprecedented hit. Overall, they had 641 order cancellations for the MAX. The manufacturer removed another 500 aircraft from their backlog, because they are doubtful. Even when deliveries and new orders are added to the mix, Boeing lost over 1,000 aircraft in 2020.
The result is that Boeing now has orders for 3,282 737 MAX aircraft. Airbus has 5,833 orders for the A320neo family. And the A220 is stealing sales from the low ends of both these single-aisles. On the plus side, Boeing is doing better than Airbus on widebodies. But the 787 situation jeopardises this trend. And the 777X is still a couple of years away.
But it’s just as well, frankly. The 777X is not the aircraft that the airlines would need in 2021 anyway. As we saw, 2020 was the year of the freighters, that Boeing was well-placed to provide. They will hope that 2021 will be the year of the 737 MAX. Hopefully for Boeing, its recertification and entry to service will invite more orders.