2019 overview: the challenges and triumphs of aviation industry giants
17 Jan

2019 overview: the challenges and triumphs of aviation industry giants

2020 is going to be a big year for the aviation industry. An improvement in profits, revenues and passenger numbers is expected so the International Air Transport Association (IATA) is forecasting a bright future after a challenging 2019. Let’s look back and see how 2019 turned out for the two giants of the aviation industry – Airbus and Boeing.

Best year for Airbus

Overall 2019 was a challenging and difficult year, indeed. Even though aviation industry keeps growing a slowing economic growth, trade wars, geopolitical tensions, continuing uncertainty over Brexit and social turmoil – all of these had an impact on the aviation business.

However, 2019 was a very good year for Airbus. The European aircraft manufacturer claimed the crown as the world’s largest plane-maker for the first time since 2011. Airbus delivered a record 863 aircraft for 2019, compared with its revised target of 860 jets. Airbus‘s deliveries rose by 7.9 % from 800 aircraft in 2018.

Its American rival, Boeing, on the other hand, only managed to deliver less than half of that amount – a mere 345, mainly long-haul jets, had been delivered by the end of November. This figure is again less than half the number of the 806 deliveries Boeing achieved in 2018. Last year’s result is the worst Boeing performance in more than a decade, which was mainly caused by the MAX 737 troubles.

However, despite this issue Boeing does not give up easily and remains the market leader as well as the world’s largest aerospace company by revenue.

A320 wins the title of best-selling plane

With over 55 years of distinguished history, the Boeing 737 jetliner has become the best-selling airplane of all time. However, it was surpassed in total order numbers by the Airbus A320 family by the end of last year. The Airbus A320 dethroned the Boeing 737 as the most popular narrow-body airliner and its domination seems set to grow.

Airbus has already earned a reputation for its ability to sell its A320 family to low-cost, start-up airlines, and as this market is constantly growing it is believed that the sales of A320 aircraft will continue to grow even further.

Airbus has already increased its official A320 production rate to 60 aircraft per month and is targeting an additional raise to 63 jets per month from 2021. Moreover, the European aircraft manufacturer expects to reach the 10 000 total sales milestone early in 2021.

A320neo jetliners are on the rise

Last year a few airlines that had previously shown brand loyalty to Boeing have moved to cancel their orders and moved over to Airbus, making for a sizable increase in orders for their A320neo range and pushing the aircraft to have comfortably more orders than its rival, the Boeing 737.

Boeing launched its 737 MAX in response to Airbus A320neo jetliners and despite all of the US aerospace’s gigantic efforts, the French’s new fuel-efficient, single-aisle jets won the prize of the most popular airplane of 2019 as well.

As of November 2019, a total of 7 200 A320neo family aircraft had been ordered by more than 115 airlines, making it the fastest selling commercial aircraft ever.

Airbus’s largest order ever with a single airline operator was made by India’s IndiGo at the end of October 2019. The largest airline in India ordered 300 A320neo family aircraft, including the A320neo, A321neo and the recently launched A321XLR, taking IndiGo’s total A320neo-family orders to 730. Indigo is already the largest A320neo operator with 97 aircraft, alongside 128 A320neos.

Another big order was made by UAE-based Air Arabia. In November the airline ordered 73 Airbus A320neos and 47 Airbus A321neos. Also, during November, the British low-cost airline EasyJet ordered 12 Airbus A320neos.

Boeing is still No.1 in terms of actual deliveries

By the end of last year, Airbus had more total orders for its A320 aircrafts than Boeing did for its 737 planes. The total number of orders for the A320 family of planes had reached more than 15,193 (in October). Boeing, on the other hand, was left behind with 15,136 orders for its 737 NG aircraft.

However, Boeing is still ahead of Airbus in terms of actual deliveries. According to Flightglobal, Boeing has delivered almost 10,563 Boeing 737 aircraft, while Airbus has delivered 9,086 Airbus A320 aircraft. So, the 737 is still the most commonly flown aircraft in the world. It is calculated that every 5 seconds one of these iconic airliners leaves the ground. On average over 1,250 Boeing 737’s are in the air at any one time.

Steps to a positive 2020

2019 wasn’t a blockbuster for Boeing. However, that doesn’t mean that 2020 is going turn out to be the same. Actually, it may well prove to be quite the opposite. Boeing plans to return with a bang to the champions pedestal in 2020. Aviation experts believe that the US aerospace giant‘s darkest hour is in the past and the company‘s plans suggest that Boeing will survive and thrive once again.

The American aircraft manufacturer is already putting in a massive effort to regain the public’s trust and convincing travellers that the company’s most popular plane is indeed safe. Moreover, there are some very good and innovative surprises in Boeing’s pocket and those should be introduced to the public this year, along with the return of the 737 MAX.

Appointing a new CEO is a really positive step in helping the company to win back trust and move forward to once again achieve the success to which Boeing is accustomed. During the last days of 2019 Boeing announced that the chairman and long-time board member David Calhoun will replace the current CEO, Dennis Muilenburg. In its statement, the company expressed the hope that a change in leadership will help to restore confidence in the company moving forward and will repair relationships with regulators, customers and all other stakeholders.

All companies, just like all people, have their troubles and just because one is experiencing trouble doesn’t mean that things are over. Far from it. In fact, the true measure of character, quality, durability and resilience is in the manner with which troubles are dealt. Boeing has a long and strong history, airplanes of the highest quality and people of the exact same calibre. It has developed these qualities which are now woven into the fabric of the company, it is in their DNA.

Likewise, is their ability to deal with adversity, and make no mistake, Boeing will adapt and overcome. There will no doubt be a very strong and successful future ahead for this icon of aviation which will see the rivalry of old between Boeing and Airbus reach ever higher pinnacles. In conclusion, 2020 is going to be an interesting year and promises to be full of change, not only for the biggest aircraft manufacturers in the world but also for the aviation industry itself.