Boeing Vs Airbus – Who Won 2019?

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The year 2019 has been one of heightened turmoil in the airline industry. In March, following two disastrous crashes of Boeing’s highly touted 737 MAX aircraft, the FAA and other international authorities ordered the grounding of the planes until the cause could be identified and resolved. While the grounding of hundreds of 737 MAX aircraft had initially been thought to conclude by the end of the year, the suspension will continue well into 2020.

While the principal cause of the crashes has been identified as a faulty guidance system meant to stabilize the pitch of the aircraft, any proposed fixes are still awaiting approval.

Boeing’s Troubling 2019

While Boeing engineers have been working hard to trace the source of the problems, the situation has worsened as the investigation of early internal communications raised serious questions about the viability of the guidance system.

As of the new year, most airline customers are not expecting the 737 Max to return to service before the 2nd Quarter of 2020. And even that is not certain.

Boeing, with orders for hundreds more 737 MAXs on the books, has continued to produce the aircraft only to place them in storage until the guidance systems can be fully approved.

However, as of January, production has been halted until the existing inventory begins to move out. This halt is expected to have a severe impact on suppliers and may require extra time to let the supply chain replenish.

And, late in the year, Boeing’s CEO Muilenberg stepped down.  

Cost to Boeing

While the ultimate cost to Boeing, not including lost sales, has not finished growing, the total will be significant. Airlines that were counting on having existing or future 737 MAX aircraft in their fleets have already begun to tally their losses and will be looking for compensation. Suppliers, too, will be experiencing financial strain until production starts again.

How deep these penalties will go depends on how long the planes will be out of service.

Airbus Achievements in 2019

When airplane orders for Boeing and Airbus have run virtually neck and neck each year during the past decade, 2019 will mark a dramatic shift at a time when worldwide demand for airplanes is booming.

Boeing’s problems were very evident at the international airshows. Buyers were looking more closely at the Airbus innovations, and many of the buyers, U.S.-based American and Frontier Airlines included, placed orders with Airbus that could have otherwise gone to Boeing.

According to a Simple Flying report, Airbus wrote orders for 718 new aircraft. Boeing’s net new orders equaled minus-84, due to some previously planned cancellations.

While much of Boeing’s energy is expended on getting the once-exalted 737 MAX back in the air, Airbus is celebrating success with recent entries that include:

  • A321 XLR which is comparable to Boeing’s 757 and 767 only more efficient
  • A321neo which seats up to 244 passengers and is viewed as a highly capable, single-aisle option, much like the B737 MAX. American Airlines placed an order for 100 A321neos that offer a range of over 3,600 miles.
  • A220 which is a 100-125 seat aircraft, ideal for short-range routes.

Airbus Takes the Lead

A portion of Airbus’s success in 2019 is likely attributable to the Boeing's troubles. However, many of their accomplishments resulted from their excellent foresight, design, and engineering.

While the events of 2018-2019 have been a substantial shock to Boeing’s trajectory as one of aviation’s leaders, most experts believe they will survive and grow once the stigma of the 737MAX dissipates. The company remains an innovative force. Even with the eventual emergence of China and others as quality aircraft producers, Boeing should continue to maintain a significant presence in the long-term.

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