Airbus tops Boeing on deliveries, avoids order cancellations

PARIS • Airbus SE delivered 39 jets last month while avoiding order cancellations as it battles to keep revenue flowing in a market battered by the coronavirus crisis.

August handovers comprised 35 A320-series narrow-body planes and four twin-aisle jets, the Toulouse, France-based company said on Tuesday. The overall tally is down 10 planes from July.

Boeing Co said it delivered 13 planes in August, in an update overshadowed by news that handovers of the 787 Dreamliner are to be slowed for checks for a new manufacturing flaw involving gaps in the plane’s horizontal stabiliser that are wider than specified.

Airbus deliveries have so far held up better during the pandemic than its US rival. Boeing continues to wrestle with cancellations of its 737 Max short-haul plane, grounded last year follow- ing two deadly crashes. The Euro-pean company has generally managed to persuade airlines including EasyJet plc and Qatar Airways to defer deliveries rather than walk away from orders outright.

Airbus shares fell 2.4% at 9:09am yesterday in Paris. They have declined 47% this year, compared to a 51% drop for Boeing.

Deferrals may pick up as the virus continues to roil the sector, with new flare-ups across Europe pushing carriers there to rein in already modest planes for restoring capacity.

While Airbus may be able to protect its backlog through such measures, the strategy risks leaving major gaps in production lines that have already seen output slashed, said Sash Tusa, an analyst at Agency Partners in London.

Airbus customers to accept handovers in August included Gulf Air, which took its first A321neo, and Portuguese carrier Orbest, which received an initial A330-900 wide-body.

New sales remain rarities, with Airbus reporting an order for just one new plane, a corporate version of the A320, and Boeing eight. — Bloomberg