Competition between Airbus and Boeing
Competition between Airbus and Boeing has been characterised as a duopoly in the large jet airliner market since the 1990s. This resulted from a series of mergers within the global aerospace industry, with Airbus beginning as a European consortium while the American Boeing absorbed its former arch-rival, McDonnell Douglas in a 1997 merger. Other manufacturers, such as Lockheed Martin and Convair, Fairchild Aircraft in the United States and British Aerospace and Fokker in Europe, were no longer in a position to compete effectively and withdrew from this market.
In the 10 years from 2004 to 2013, Airbus has received 8,933 orders while delivering 4,824, and Boeing has received 8,428 orders while delivering 4,458. Competition is intense; each company regularly accuses the other of receiving unfair state aid from their respective governments.
- 1 Competing products
- 2 Modes of competition
- 3 Effect of competition on product plans
- 4 Orders and deliveries
- 5 Controversies
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
Passenger capacity and range comparison
Airbus and Boeing have a wide product range including single-aisle and wide-body aircraft covering a variety of combinations of capacity and range but they rarely compete head-to-head. The chart below shows how both manufacturers have responded to meet market needs with slightly different models while covering a broadly similar field.
Airbus A380 vs Boeing 747
During the 1990s both companies researched the feasibility of a passenger aircraft larger than the Boeing 747, which was then the largest airliner in operation. Airbus subsequently launched a full-length double-deck aircraft, the A380, a decade later while Boeing decided the project would not be commercially viable and developed the third generation 747, Boeing 747-8, instead. The Airbus A380 and the Boeing 747-8 are therefore placed in direct competition on long-haul routes.
Rival performance claims by Airbus and Boeing appear to be contradictory, their methodologies unclear and neither are validated by a third party source. Boeing claims the 747-8I to be over 10% lighter per seat and have 11% less fuel consumption per passenger, with a trip-cost reduction of 21% and a seat-mile cost reduction of more than 6%, compared to the A380. The 747-8F's empty weight is expected to be 80 tonnes (88 tons) lighter and 24% lower fuel burnt per ton with 21% lower trip costs and 23% lower ton-mile costs than the A380F. On the other hand, Airbus claims the A380 to have 8% less fuel consumption per passenger than the 747-8I and in 2007 Singapore Airlines CEO Chew Choong Seng stated the A380 was performing better than both the airline and Airbus had anticipated, burning 20% less fuel per passenger than the airline's 747-400 fleet. Emirates' Tim Clark also claims that the A380 is more fuel economic at Mach 0.86 than at 0.83. One independent, industry analysis shows fuel consumption in Litres per seat per 100 kilometres flown (L/seat/100km) as 3.27 for the A380 and 3.35 for the B747-8I, or a fuel cost per seat mile of $0.055 and 0.057 respectively. A possible, as yet uncommitted, re-engined A380neo is expected to achieve 2.82 or 2.65 L/seat/100km depending on the options taken.
Airbus emphasises the longer range of the A380 while using up to 17% shorter runways. The A380-800 has 478 square metres (5,145.1 sq ft) of cabin floor space, 49% more than the 747-8, while commentators noted the "downright eerie" lack of engine noise, with the A380 being 50% quieter than a 747-400 on takeoff. Airbus delivered the 100th A380 on 14 March 2013. From 2012, Airbus will offer, as an option, a variant with improved maximum take-off weight allowing for better payload/range performance. The precise increase in maximum take-off weight is still unknown. British Airways and Emirates will be the first customers to take this offer.
As of July 2014, Airbus has 324 orders for the passenger version of the A380 and is not currently offering the A380-800 freighter. Production of the A380F has been suspended until the A380 production lines have settled with no firm availability date. A number of original A380F orders were cancelled following delays to the A380 program in October 2006, notably FedEx and the United Parcel Service. Some A380 launch customers converted their A380F orders to the passenger version or switched to the 747-8F or 777F aircraft.
EADS/Northrop Grumman KC-45A vs Boeing KC-767
The announcement in March 2008 that Boeing had lost a US$40 billion refuelling aircraft contract to Northrop Grumman and Airbus for the EADS/Northrop Grumman KC-45 with the United States Air Force drew angry protests in the United States Congress. Upon review of Boeing's protest, the Government Accountability Office ruled in favour of Boeing and ordered the USAF to recompete the contract. Later, the entire call for aircraft was rescheduled, then cancelled, with a new call decided upon in March 2010.
Boeing later won the contest, with a lower price, on February 24, 2011. The price was so low some in the media believe Boeing would take a loss on the deal; they also speculated that the company could perhaps break even with maintenance and spare parts contracts. In July 2011, it was revealed that projected development costs rose $1.4bn and will exceed the $4.9bn contract cap by $300m. For the first $1bn increase (from the award price to the cap), the U.S. government would be responsible for $600m under a 60/40 government/Boeing split. With Boeing being wholly responsible for the additional $300m ceiling breach, Boeing would be responsible for a total of $700m of the additional cost.[clarification needed]
Modes of competition
Because many of the world's airlines are wholly or partially government owned, aircraft procurement decisions are often taken according to political criteria in addition to commercial ones. Boeing and Airbus seek to exploit this by subcontracting production of aircraft components or assemblies to manufacturers in countries of strategic importance in order to gain a competitive advantage overall.
For example, Boeing has maintained longstanding relationships with Japanese suppliers including Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Kawasaki Heavy Industries by which these companies have had increasing involvement on successive Boeing jet programs, a process which has helped Boeing achieve almost total dominance of the Japanese market for commercial jets. Outsourcing was extended on the 787 to the extent that Boeing's own involvement was reduced to little more than project management, design, assembly and test operation, outsourcing most of the actual manufacturing all around the world. Boeing has since stated that it "outsourced too much" and that future airplane projects will depend far more on its own engineering and production personnel.
Partly because of its origins as a consortium of European companies, Airbus has had fewer opportunities to outsource significant parts of its production beyond its own European plants. However, in 2009 Airbus opened an assembly plant in Tianjin, China for production of its A320 series airliners.
Airbus sought to compete with the well-established Boeing in the 1970s through its introduction of advanced technology. For example, the A300 made the most extensive use of composite materials yet seen in an aircraft of that era, and by automating the flight engineer's functions, was the first widebody jet to have a two-man flight crew. In the 1980s Airbus was the first to introduce digital fly-by-wire controls into an airliner (the A320).
With Airbus now an established competitor to Boeing, both companies use advanced technology to seek performance advantages in their products. Many of these improvements are about weight reduction and fuel efficiency. For example, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner is the first large airliner to use 50% composites for its construction. The Airbus A350 XWB features 53% composites.
Provision of engine choices
The competitive strength in the market of any airliner is considerably influenced by the choice of engine available. In general, airlines prefer to have a choice of at least two engines from the major manufacturers General Electric, Rolls-Royce and Pratt & Whitney. However, engine manufacturers prefer to be single source, and often succeed in striking commercial deals with Boeing and Airbus to achieve this.
Several notable aircraft have only provided a single engine offering: the Boeing 737-300 series onwards (CFM56), the Airbus A340-500 & 600 (Rolls-Royce Trent 500), the Airbus A350 XWB (Rolls-Royce Trent XWB), the Boeing 747-8 (GEnx-2B67), and the Boeing 777-300ER/200LR/F (General Electric GE90). However, the Airbus A380 has a choice of either the Engine Alliance GP7000 or the Rolls-Royce Trent 900, while the Boeing 787 Dreamliner can be fitted with the General Electric GEnx or the Rolls-Royce Trent 1000.
As of the late 2000s, there appears to be a polarizing of both the engine suppliers as well as the airline manufacturers, such as Boeing and General Electric partnering for the upcoming Boeing 777X, and Airbus working closely with Rolls Royce for the Airbus A350-1000.
Boeing's production costs are mostly in United States dollars, whereas Airbus' production costs are mostly in Euro. When the dollar appreciates against the euro the cost of producing a Boeing aircraft rises relatively to the cost of producing an Airbus aircraft, and conversely when the dollar falls relative to the euro it is an advantage for Boeing. There are also possible currency risks and benefits involved in the way aircraft are sold. Boeing typically prices its aircraft only in dollars, while Airbus, although pricing most aircraft sales in dollars, has been known to be more flexible and has priced some aircraft sales in Asia and the Middle East in multiple currencies. Depending on currency fluctuations between the acceptance of the order and the delivery of the aircraft this can result in an extra profit or extra expense — or, if Airbus has purchased insurance against such fluctuations, an additional cost regardless.
Both aircraft manufacturers have good safety records on recently manufactured aircraft. By convention, both companies tend to avoid safety comparisons when selling their aircraft to airlines. Most aircraft dominating the companies' current sales, the Boeing 737-NG and Airbus A320 families and both companies' wide-body offerings, have good safety records. Older model aircraft such as the Boeing 707, Boeing 727, Boeing 737-100/-200, Boeing 747-100/sp/200/300,Airbus A300, and Airbus A310, which were respectively first flown during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, have had higher rates of fatal accidents. According to Airbus' John Leahy, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner battery problems will not cause customers to switch airplane suppliers.
Airbus and Boeing publish list prices for their aircraft but the actual prices charged to airlines vary; they can be difficult to determine and tend to be much lower than the list prices. Both manufacturers are engaged in a price competition to defend their market share.
The Airbus list prices for 2015 are as follows and show a 3.27% increase over 2014:
|Model||Cost in million USD (USD mio)|
The Boeing list prices for 2014 were as follows:
|Model||Cost in million USD (USD mio)|
|Boeing 737 MAX 7||87.7|
|Boeing 737 MAX 8||106.9|
|Boeing 737 MAX 9||113.3|
However, the actual transaction prices may be as much as 50% less than the list prices, as reported in 2012 in the Wall Street Journal, giving some examples from the Flight International subsidiary Ascend:
|Model||List price 2012||Market price||% Discount|
|Model||List price 2013||Market price||Discount|
|Boeing 737 MAX-8||100.5||51.4||49%|
Effect of competition on product plans
The A320 has been selected by 222 operators (Dec. 2008), among these several low-cost operators, gaining ground against the previously well established 737 in this sector; it has also been selected as a replacement for 727s and aging 737s by many full-service airlines such as Star Alliance members United Airlines and Lufthansa. After dominating the very large aircraft market for four decades, the Boeing 747 now faces a challenge from the A380. In response, Boeing now offer the stretched and updated 747-8, with greater capacity, fuel efficiency, and longer range. Frequent delays to the Airbus A380 program caused several customers to consider cancelling their orders in favour of the refreshed 747-8, although none have done so and some have even placed repeat orders for the A380. However, all orders for the A380F freight variant have been cancelled. To date, Boeing has secured orders for 78 747-8F and 51 747-8I aircraft with first deliveries originally scheduled for 2011 and 2012 as the 747-8I is only in service with Lufthansa, while Airbus has orders for 318 A380s, the first of which entered service in 2007 and has delivered a total of 152 to customers (as of December 31, 2014).
Several Boeing projects were pursued and then cancelled, for example the Sonic Cruiser. Boeing's current platform for fleet rejuvenation is the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which uses technology from the Sonic Cruiser concept. The 787's rapid sales success and pressure from potential customers forced Airbus to revise the design of its competing A350.
Boeing initially ruled out producing a re-engined version of its 737 to compete with the Airbus A320neo family launch planned for 2015, believing airlines would be looking towards the Boeing Y1 and a 30% fuel saving, instead of paying 10% more for fuel efficiency gains of only a few percent. Industry sources believe that the 737's design makes re-engining considerably more expensive for Boeing than it was for the Airbus A320. However, there did prove to be considerable demand. Southwest Airlines, who use the 737 for their entire fleet (680 in service or on order), said they were not prepared to wait 20 years or more for a new 737 model and threatened to convert to Airbus. Boeing eventually bowed to airline pressure and in 2011 approved the 737 MAX project, scheduled for first delivery in 2017.
Orders and deliveries
|Sources 2015: Airbus net orders until February 28, 2015 <http://www.airbus.com/company/market/orders-deliveries/>
Boeing net orders until March 3, 2015 <http://active.boeing.com/commercial/orders/index.cfm>
|Sources 2015: Airbus deliveries until February 28, 2015 <http://www.airbus.com/company/market/orders-deliveries/>
Boeing deliveries until February 28, 2015 <http://active.boeing.com/commercial/orders/index.cfm?content=displaystandardreport.cfm&optReportType=CurYrDelv>
Orders and deliveries by product
|Civil airplanes||2014 Deliveries||2014 Orders||2014 Backlog||Historical Deliveries *|
|single aisle||1010 707|
|single aisle||155 717|
|single aisle||1831 727|
|single aisle||490 A320||485 737||1321 A320||1104 737||5129 A320 family||4299 737||6385 A320||8350 737|
|single aisle||1049 757|
|widebody||6 767||4 767||47 767||561 A300
|widebody||108 A330||99 777||154 A330||283 777||313 A330||564 777||1154 A330
|widebody||1 A350||114 787||-32 A350||41 787||779 A350||843 787||1 A350||228 787|
|widebody||30 A380||19 747||13 A380||0 747||165 A380||36 747||152 A380||1501 747|
|*Historical deliveries are all jet airliners from Boeing since 1958 and Airbus since 1974 until 31 December 2014|
|Boeing ||Airbus |
|Airliner||Europe||North America||Latin America & Caribbean||Asia Pacific||Middle East||Africa||Leasing Companies||VIP-Gov-Others||Total|
The first Airbus delivery was in 1974 and Boeing deliveries considerably exceeded that of Airbus throughout the 1980s. In the 1990s this lead narrowed significantly but Boeing remained ahead of Airbus partly because of Boeing's wider offering of aircraft types (707,737, 757) against Airbus' A320 family. In the 2000s Airbus assumed the lead in narrow-body aircraft despite Boeing still having a wider selection on offer (717, 737, 757). By 2010 little difference remained between Airbus and Boeing in both the wide-body or narrow-body categories or the range on offer.
|World Airliner Census 2006  2007  2008  2009  2010  2011  2012  2013  2014 |
The ratio of Boeing to Airbus still in operation, if projected at the current rates would reach parity, 1:1, in 2021.
Boeing has continually protested over launch aid in the form of credits to Airbus, while Airbus has argued that Boeing receives illegal subsidies through military and research contracts and tax breaks.
In July 2004, Harry Stonecipher (then CEO of Boeing) accused Airbus of abusing a 1992 bilateral EU-US agreement regarding large civil aircraft support from governments. Airbus is given reimbursable launch investment (RLI, called "launch aid" by the US) from European governments with the money being paid back with interest, plus indefinite royalties if the aircraft is a commercial success. Airbus contends that this system is fully compliant with the 1992 agreement and WTO rules. The agreement allows up to 33 per cent of the program cost to be met through government loans which are to be fully repaid within 17 years with interest and royalties. These loans are held at a minimum interest rate equal to the cost of government borrowing plus 0.25%, which would be below market rates available to Airbus without government support. Airbus claims that since the signing of the EU-U.S. agreement in 1992, it has repaid European governments more than U.S.$6.7 billion and that this is 40% more than it has received.
Airbus argues that pork barrel military contracts awarded to Boeing (the second largest U.S. defence contractor) are in effect a form of subsidy (see the Boeing KC-767 vs EADS (Airbus) KC-45 military contracting controversy). The significant U.S. government support of technology development via NASA also provides significant support to Boeing, as do the large tax breaks offered to Boeing, which some claim are in violation of the 1992 agreement and WTO rules. In its recent products such as the 787, Boeing has also received substantial support from local and state governments. However, Airbus' parent, EADS, itself is a military contractor, and is paid to develop and build projects such as the Airbus A400M transport and various other military aircraft.
In January 2005, European Union and United States trade representatives Peter Mandelson and Robert Zoellick agreed to talks aimed at resolving the increasing tensions. These talks were not successful, with the dispute becoming more acrimonious rather than approaching a settlement.
World Trade Organization litigation
On 31 May 2005 the United States filed a case against the European Union for providing allegedly illegal subsidies to Airbus. Twenty-four hours later the European Union filed a complaint against the United States protesting support for Boeing.
Increased tensions, due to the support for the Airbus A380, escalated toward a potential trade war as the launch of the Airbus A350 neared. Airbus preferred the A350 program to be launched with the help of state loans covering a third of the development costs, although it stated it will launch without these loans if required. The A350 will compete with Boeing's most successful project in recent years, the 787 Dreamliner. EU trade officials questioned the nature of the funding provided by NASA, the Department of Defense, and in particular the form of R&D contracts that benefit Boeing; as well as funding from US states such as Washington, Kansas, and Illinois, for the development and launch of Boeing aircraft, in particular the 787. An interim report of the WTO investigation into the claims made by both sides was made in September 2009.
In September 2009, the New York Times and Wall Street Journal reported that the World Trade Organization would likely rule against Airbus on most, but not all, of Boeing's complaints; the practical effect of this ruling would likely be blunted by the large number of international partners engaged by both plane makers, as well as the expected delay of several years of appeals. For example, 35% of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner is manufactured in Japan. Thus, some experts are advocating a negotiated settlement. In addition, the heavy government subsidies offered to automobile manufacturers in the United States have changed the political environment; the subsidies offered to Chrysler and General Motors dwarf the amounts involved in the Airbus-Boeing dispute.
In March 2010, the WTO ruled that European governments unfairly financed Airbus. In September 2010, a preliminary report of the WTO found unfair Boeing payments broke WTO rules and should be withdrawn. In two separate findings issued in May 2011, the WTO found, firstly, that the US defence budget and NASA research grants could not be used as vehicles to subsidise the civilian aerospace industry and that Boeing must repay $5.3 billion of illegal subsidies. Secondly, the WTO Appellate Body partly overturned an earlier ruling that European Government launch aid constituted unfair subsidy, agreeing with the point of principle that the support was not aimed at boosting exports and some forms of public-private partnership could continue. Part of the $18bn in low interest loans received would have to be repaid eventually; however, there was no immediate need for it to be repaid and the exact value to be repaid would be set at a future date. Both parties claimed victory in what was the world's largest trade dispute.
On 1 December 2011 Airbus reported that it had fulfilled its obligations under the WTO findings and called upon Boeing to do likewise in the coming year. The United States did not agree and had already begun complaint procedures prior to December, stating the EU had failed to comply with the DSB's recommendations and rulings, and requesting authorisation by the DSB to take countermeasures under Article 22 of the DSU and Article 7.9 of the SCM Agreement. The European Union requested the matter be referred to arbitration under Article 22.6 of the DSU. The DSB agreed that the matter raised by the European Union in its statement at that meeting be referred to arbitration as required by Article 22.6 of the DSU however on 19 January 2012 the US and EU jointly agreed to withdraw their request for arbitration.
On 12 March 2012 the appellate body of the WTO released its findings confirming the illegality of subsidies to Boeing whilst confirming the legality of repayable loans made to Airbus. The WTO stated that Boeing had received at least $5.3 billion in illegal cash subsidies at an estimated cost to Airbus of $45 billion. A further $2 billion in state and local subsidies that Boeing is set to receive have also been declared illegal. Boeing and the US government were given six months to change the way government support for Boeing is handled. At the DSB meeting on 13 April 2012, the United States informed the DSB that it intended to implement the DSB recommendations and rulings in a manner that respects its WTO obligations and within the time-frame established in Article 7.9 of the SCM Agreement. The European Union welcomed the US intention and noted that the 6-month period stipulated in Article 7.9 of the SCM Agreement would expire on 23 September 2012. On 24 April 2012, the European Union and the United States informed the DSB of Agreed Procedures under Articles 21 and 22 of the DSU and Article 7 of the SCM Agreement.
On 25 September 2012 the EU requested discussions with the USA, because of the non compliance of the US and Boeing with the WTO ruling of 12 March 2012. On 27 September 2012 the EU requested the WTO to approve EU countermeasures against USA's subsidy of Boeing. If the WTO approves and the discussions between the EU and USA fail, the EU wants permission to place trade sanctions of up to 12 billion US$ annually against the USA. The EU believes this amount represents the damage the illegal subsidies of Boeing cause to the EU.
- Airbus Corporate Jets
- Boeing Commercial Airplanes
- Competition in the Regional jet market
- List of civil aircraft
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