Competition between Airbus and Boeing

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The competition between Airbus and Boeing has been characterised as a duopoly in the large jet airliner market since the 1990s.[1] This resulted from a series of mergers within the global aerospace industry, with Airbus beginning as a pan-European consortium while the American Boeing absorbed its former arch-rival, McDonnell Douglas, in 1997. Other manufacturers, such as Lockheed Martin and Convair in the United States, and British Aerospace (now BAE Systems) and Fokker in Europe, were no longer able to compete and effectively withdrew from this market.

In the 10 years from 2007 to 2016, Airbus received 9,985 orders while delivering 5,644, and Boeing received 8,978 orders while delivering 5,718. During their period of intense competition, both companies have regularly accused each other of receiving unfair state aid from their respective governments. In 2019, Airbus displaced Boeing as the largest aerospace company by revenue due to the Boeing 737 MAX groundings, with revenues of US$78.9 billion and US$76 billion respectively. Boeing recorded $2 billion operating losses down from $12 billion profits the previous year, while Airbus profits dropped from $6 billion to $1.5 billion.[2]

Competing products[edit]

Passenger capacity and range comparison[edit]

Airbus and Boeing have wide product ranges including single-aisle and wide-body aircraft covering a variety of combinations of capacity and range.

Narrowbodies passenger capacity and range comparison
Single aisle : Airbus,[3] 737[4]
Type length span MTOW pax range list price[5][6][7]
A220-100 35.0 m 35.1 m 60.8 t 100-120 3,400 nmi (6,300 km) US$79.5M
A220-300 38.7 m 35.1 m 67.6 t 120-150 3,350 nmi (6,200 km) US$89.5M
A319neo 33.8 m 35.8 m 75.5 t 120-150 3,700 nmi (6,900 km) US$101.5M
737 MAX-7 35.6 m 35.9 m 80.3 t 138-153 3,850 nmi (7,130 km) US$96.0M
A320neo 37.6 m 35.8 m 79.0 t 150-180 3,400 nmi (6,300 km) US$110.6M
737 MAX-8 39.5 m 35.9 m 82.2 t 162-178 3,550 nmi (6,570 km) US$117.1M
737 MAX-9 42.1 m 35.9 m 88.3 t 178-193 3,550 nmi (6,570 km) US$120.2M
737 MAX-10 43.8 m 35.9 m 89.8 t 188-204 3,300 nmi (6,100 km) US$129.9M
A321neo 44.5 m 35.8 m 97.0 t 180-220 4,000 nmi (7,400 km) US$129.5M

Flight Global fleet forecasts 26,860 single aisle deliveries for a $1,360 Bn value at a compound annual growth rate of 5% for the 2016–2035 period, with a 45% market share for Airbus (12090), 43% for Boeing (11550), 5% for Bombardier Aerospace (1340), 4% for Comac (1070) and 3% for Irkut Corporation (810); Airbus predicts 23,531 and Boeing 28,140.[8] Single aisles generates a vast majority of profits for both, followed by legacy twin aisles like the A330 and B777: Kevin Michaels of AeroDynamic Advisory estimates the 737 have a 30% profit margin and the 777 classic 20%.[9]

Widebodies passenger capacity and range comparison
Widebodies : Airbus,[3] 787,[10] 777X,[11] 747[12]
Type length span MTOW pax range list price[5][6]
787-8 56.7 m 60.8 m 228.0 t 242 7,355 nmi (13,621 km) US$239.0M
A330neo-800 58.8 m 64.0 m 251.0 t 257 8,150 nmi (15,090 km) US$259.9M
A330neo-900 63.7 m 64.0 m 251.0 t 287 7,200 nmi (13,300 km) US$296.4M
787-9 63.0 m 60.8 m 254.0 t 290 7,635 nmi (14,140 km) US$281.6M
A350-900 66.8 m 64.8 m 280.0 t 325 8,100 nmi (15,000 km) US$317.4M
787-10 68.3 m 60.2 m 254.0 t 330 6,430 nmi (11,910 km) US$325.8M
777X-8 69.8 m 71.8 m 351.5 t 365 8,690 nmi (16,090 km) US$394.9M
A350-1000 73.8 m 64.8 m 316.0 t 366 8,400 nmi (15,600 km) US$366.5M
777X-9 76.7 m 71.8 m 351.5 t 414 7,525 nmi (13,936 km) US$425.8M
747-8 76.3 m 68.4 m 447.7 t 410 8,000 nmi (15,000 km) US$402.9M
A380 72.7 m 79.8 m 575.0 t 575 8,000 nmi (15,000 km) US$445.6M

Flight Global fleet forecasts 7,960 twin aisle deliveries for a $1,284 Bn value for the 2016–2035 period.[13] They predict the B787 taking 31% of the market share, followed by the A350 with 27% and the 777 with 21%, then the A330 and A380 each taking 7%.[14] In June 2017, The orderbook was for 1038 Airbus (41%) and 1,514 Boeings (59%).[15]

Capacity
Market North Atlantic[16] Trans-pacific[17]
type 1H2006 1H2016 2005 2015
A310/DC-10/MD-11 3% 1% 3%
A320/737 1% 1%
A330 16% 26% 3% 10%
A340 10% 6% 11% 1%
A380 3% 4%
747 15% 9% 49% 10%
757 6% 9%
767 28% 19% 7% 7%
777 21% 20% 27% 55%
787 6% 13%

Cargo capacity and range comparison[edit]

Type length span MTOW capacity range list price (USD)
A320P2F[18] 37.6 m 35.8 m 78.0 t 21.0 t 2,100 nmi (3,900 km) converted
737-800BCF[19] 39.5 m 79.0 t 22.7 t 2,000 nmi (3,700 km) converted
A321P2F[18] 44.5 m 93.5 t 27.0 t 1,900 nmi (3,500 km) converted
767-300F[19] 54.9 m 47.6 m 186.9 t 52.5 t 3,260 nmi (6,040 km) $203.7M
767-300BCF[19] 50.9 m 51.7 t 3,300 nmi (6,100 km) converted
A330-200P2F[20] 58.8 m 60.3 m 233.0 t 59.0 t 4,000 nmi (7,400 km) converted
A330-200F[3] 70.0 t $237.0M
A330-300P2F[20] 63.7 m 61.0 t 3,600 nmi (6,700 km) converted
777F[19] 64.8 m 347.8 t 102.0 t 4,970 nmi (9,200 km) $325.7M
747-8F[19] 76.3 m 68.4 m 447.7 t 137.7 t 4,120 nmi (7,630 km) $387.5M

As Airbus builds only one new freighter, the A330-200F, selling poorly with 42 orders including 38 already delivered, Boeing is almost in a monopoly and can keep producing the 767F, 777F and 747-8F while their passenger variants are not selling anymore.[21]

Small single aisles[edit]

In October 2017, Airbus took a 50.01% stake in the Bombardier CSeries programme.[22] In December 2017, Boeing confirmed that it was holding discussions with Embraer for its airliner business.[23] Airbus took control of the CSeries on 1 July 2018 and renamed it Airbus A220.[24] On 5 July 2018, a Boeing-Embraer joint venture was announced for Embraer's airliners, valued at $4.75 billion, for which Boeing was to invest $3.8 billion for an 80% holding.[25] The Embraer E-Jet E2 family competes with the Airbus A220. However, the deal was terminated by Boeing on 24 April 2020.[26]

Single aisles: A320 vs 737[edit]

United Airlines Airbus A320 and Boeing 737-900 on final approach
737 vs A320 family deliveries per model 1967-2018

Airbus sold well the A320 family aircraft to low-cost startups and offering a choice of engines could make them more attractive to airlines and lessors than the single-sourced Boeing 737 family, but CFM engines are extremely reliable. While the 737NG series outsold the A320ceo family since its introduction in 1988, in 2001,[27] and in 2007.[28] the last became the best-selling jet airliner in 2002,[27] and in 2005–2006.[29]

In January 2016, the 737NG series was still lagging around 900 orders with 7,033 against 7,940 of the A320ceo family. For the new re-engined variants, The 737 MAX series had 3,072 orders since its introduction in August 2011 and the A320neo family got 3,355 in the same time frame or in total 4,471 since its launch in December 2010. The six-month head-start of the A320neo allowed Airbus to rack up 1,000 orders.[30] Through August 2016, Airbus had a 59.4% market share of the re-engined single aisle market, while Boeing had 40.6%; Boeing had doubts on over-ordered A320neos by new operators and expected to narrow the gap with potential orders from established airlines.[31] In July 2017, however, Airbus still had sold 1,350 more A320neos than Boeing had sold 737 MAXs.[32] In August 2018, the A321 had outsold the 737-900 three to one, as the A321neo was again dominating the 737-9 MAX, to be joined by the 737-10 MAX.[33] In October 2019, ultimately, the A320 family surpassed the Boeing 737 to become the highest-selling airliner with a total order of 15,193 and respectively 15,136 aircraft at the end of the month.

In terms of deliveries, as of October 2019, Boeing had shipped 10,563 aircraft of the 737 series since the first delivery to Lufthansa in late 1967, with a further 4,573 on firm order. Airbus had shipped 9,086 A320 family aircraft since the first delivery to Air France in early 1988, with another 6,107 on firm order[38] and for comparison, Boeing delivered 9,037 aircraft within the same time frame.[39][40] To date, with its 21 years ahead of introduction, the 737 series aircraft had been delivered nearly 1,500 more than the A320 family and within the same time frame, the last had 49, slightly more deliveries than its competitor. To increase delivery, Boeing ramped up 737 monthly production from 47 in 2017 to 57 in 2019, whilst Airbus from 46 to 60 and both consider accelerating further despite supplier strain.[41]

By September 2018, there were 7,251 A320ceo family aircraft in service versus 6,757 737NGs, while at the year end there were overall 7,506 A320 family versus 7,310 Boeing 737.

Twin aisles[edit]

In November 2017, for its chief Willie Walsh, International Airlines Group budget carrier Level benefits more from its two A330-200 lower cost of ownership than its 6t higher fuel burn ($3,500) on a Barcelona-Los Angeles flight: it will introduce three more as there aren't enough B787 pilots.[42] In early 2018, of the 2,673 twin-aisle orders excluding the Airbus A330CEO and quad engine planes (the A380 and B747-8), Boeing had 1,603 (60%) and Airbus 1,070 (40%).[43]

The ultra-long-range variants of new types enable new routes between far away city pairs: the 9,700 nmi Airbus A350-900 ULR entered service in 2018 and the 8,700 to 9,100 nmi Boeing 777-8 is expected in 2022. Singapore Airlines planned to reintroduce the world's longest flight between Singapore and New York (8,285 nmi) in 2018 with an A350-900 ULR, Qantas hopes to fly from Sydney to New York (8,650 nmi) or London (9,200 nmi) within four years for the Project Sunrise and Air New Zealand wish to operate to the US East Coast: Auckland and New York are 7,670 nmi apart.[44] The Singapore-New York A350-900ULR will have a low density premium-focused configuration with only 161 seats: 94 premium economy and 67 business.[45]

Jumbo twin aisles: A380 vs 747[edit]

Cross-section comparison of the Airbus A380 (full-length double deck) and the front section of Boeing 747-400 (only the front section has double deck)

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.[46] 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.[citation needed] 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.[47] 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.[48] Emirates' Tim Clark also claims that the A380 is more fuel economic at Mach 0.86 than at 0.83.[49] An independent analysis shows a fuel consumption per seat of 3.27 L/100 km for the A380 and 3.35 L/100 km for the B747-8I; a hypothetical re-engined A380neo would have achieved 2.82 to 2.65 L/100 km per seat depending on the options taken.[50]

Airbus emphasises the longer range of the A380 while using up to 17% shorter runways.[51] 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.[52] Airbus delivered the 100th A380 on 14 March 2013.[53] 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.[54]

As of December 2015, Airbus had 319 orders[55] 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.[56] 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.[57][58]

At Farnborough in July 2016, Airbus announced that in a "prudent, proactive step," starting in 2018 it expects to deliver 12 A380 aircraft per year, down from 27 deliveries in 2015. The firm also warned production might slip back into red ink on each aircraft produced at that time, though it anticipates production will remain in the black for 2016 and 2017. The firm expects that healthy demand for its other aircraft would allow it to avoid job losses from the cuts.[59][60]

As of June 2014, Boeing had 51 orders for the 747-8I passenger version and 69 for the 747-8F freighter.[61]

In February 2019, Airbus announced the end of A380 production by 2021, after its main customer, Emirates, agreed to drop an order for 39 of the aircraft. Airbus will build 17 more A380s before closing the production line, taking the total number of expected deliveries of the aircraft type to 251.[62] At that time, 747 backlog and production rates were sufficient to sustain production until late 2022.[63]

As of 31 January 2020, Boeing had no outstanding unfulfilled orders for the 747-8I passenger version and 17 for the 747-8F freighter;[64] Airbus had 11 A380s remaining to be delivered.[65]

EADS/Northrop Grumman KC-45A vs Boeing KC-767[edit]

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.[66] 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 as a fixed-price contract.

Boeing later won the contest against Airbus (Northrop having withdrawn) and US Aerospace/Antonov (disqualified), with a lower price, on 24 February 2011.[67] 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.[68] 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 US 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.[69][70][71][clarification needed]

Modes of competition[edit]

Outsourcing[edit]

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 the 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 since 1974 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.[72]

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,[73] and opened a similar assembly plant in Alabama, United States, in 2015.[74]

Technology[edit]

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-person 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.[75]

Engine choices[edit]

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 a single source and often succeed in striking commercial deals with Boeing and Airbus to achieve this.

In 2008, the competition was developing between two sides as Airbus selected the Rolls-Royce Trent XWB alone for the Airbus A350, while GE avoided a $1 billion development competing with its Boeing 777HGW exclusive GE90.[76] In 2013, Boeing rejected a Rolls-Royce engine for the 777X to favor General Electric's GE9X.[77] In 2014, Rolls-Royce secured its exclusivity to power the A330neo with the Trent 7000.[78]

Other aircraft providing a single engine offering include the Boeing 737 MAX (CFM LEAP) or the Airbus A220 (P&W GTF); while those with multiple sources include the Boeing 787 (GEnx/Trent 1000) or the Airbus A320neo (P&W GTF/CFM LEAP).

Currency and exchange rates[edit]

Boeing's production costs are mostly in United States dollars, whereas Airbus's 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.[79]

Safety and quality[edit]

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 first flown during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, have had higher rates of fatal accidents. Both companies tend to avoid safety comparisons when selling their aircraft to airlines or comparisons on product quality.[80] According to Airbus's John Leahy, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner battery problems will not cause customers to switch airplane suppliers.[81] The grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX following two high-profile crashes is also unlikely to significantly benefit Airbus at least short-term, as both the 737 MAX and A320neo production lines have backlogs of several years and changing manufacturers requires significant crew training.[82][83]

Aircraft prices[edit]

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.[84]

The actual transaction prices may be as much as 63% less than the list prices, as reported in 2012 in The Wall Street Journal, giving some examples from the Flight International subsidiary Ascend:[85]

Model List price 2012, US$M Market price % Discount
Boeing 737-800 84 41 51%
Boeing 737-900ER 90 45 50%
Boeing 777-300ER 298 149 50%
Airbus A319 81 30 63%
Airbus A320 88 40 55%
Airbus A330-200 209 84 60%

In May 2013, Forbes magazine reported that the Boeing 787 offered at $225 million was selling at an average of $116m, a 48% discount.[86]

For Ascend's Les Weal, Launch customers obtain good prices on heavier aircraft, lessors are large buyers and benefit too, like airlines as Singapore Airlines or Cathay Pacific since their name gives credibility to a program. In its annual report, Air France cites a €149 million ($195 million) A380, a 52% cut, while in an October 2011 financial release Doric Nimrod Air notes $234 million for its A380 leased to Emirates. Teal group's Richard Aboulafia notes that Boeing's pricing power for the 777-300ER was better when it was alone in its long-haul, large capacity twinjet market but this advantage dissipates with the A350-1000 coming.[87]

For Leeham's Scott Hamilton, small orders are content with 35–40% discount but large airlines sometimes attain 60% and customers with old ties with Boeing like American, Delta or Southwest get a Most-Favoured-Customer Clause guaranteeing them no other customer gets a lower price. Wells Fargo indicates Southwest, the largest 737 customer with 577, got a unit price of $34.7 million for its 737 MAX order of 150 in December 2011, a 64% discount. Ryanair got 53% in September 2001 and claims to obtain at least the same on its last 175 orders. The Airbus-Boeing WTO proceedings indicates EasyJet got a $19,4 million unit price on its A319 order for 120 in 2002, a 56% discount at the time, the same kind of rebate Lion Air got for its A320 order of 234 on 18 March 2013.[87]

Each sale includes an escalation rate covering the workforce and raw material costs increases and as acquisition cost represents 15% of the 20-year total cost of ownership, discussions also include the delivery date, fuel consumption guarantees, financial incentives, maintenance, and training. At Airbus, final price in large campaigns is validated by a committee comprising sales head John Leahy, program director Tom Williams, financial principal Harald Wilhelm and CEO Fabrice Brégier who has the final cut.[87]

Those discounts were presented again in Le Nouvel Observateur's Challenges.fr again with Ascend valuations in 2013:[87]

Model List price 2013 Market price Discount
Boeing 747-8 351.4 145.0 59%
Airbus A320-200 91.5 38.75 58%
Airbus A330-200 239.4 99.5 58%
Boeing 737-800 89.1 41.8 53%
Boeing 777-300ER 315.0 152.5 52%
Airbus A380 403.9 193.0 52%
Airbus A320neo 100.2 49.2 51%
Boeing 737 MAX-8 100.5 51.4 49%
Boeing 787-8 206.8 107.0 48%
Airbus A350-900 287.7 152.0 47%

In 2014, Airways News indicated discounted list prices for long haul liners :[88]

Model List price 2014 Market price Discount
Airbus A330-900 275.6 124.0 55%
Airbus A350-900 295.2 159.4 46%
Boeing 777-200LR 296.0 118.4 60%
Boeing 787-9 249.5 134.7 46%

On 24 December 2014, Transasia Airways announced a commitment to four A330-800s, list price $241.7m, for $480m or $120m each.[89] At the end of 2015, the sale and leaseback of new Airbus A350-900 from GECAS to Finnair value them at €132.5M ($144M)[90]

In order to close the production gap between the B777 classic and the new 777X, Boeing is challenged by a $120m market price for the -300ERs. Competitive pressure from the Bombardier CSeries and E-Jet E2 lead Boeing to pursue the development of the 737 MAX-7 despite low sales,[91] and to sell the Boeing 737-700 at $22m to United Airlines, 27% of the 2015 list price and well below what Embraer or Bombardier could offer for their aircraft.[92]

Moody’s Investors Service estimates Delta Air Lines paid $40 million each for its 37 A321ceo order on 29 April 2016, an "end-of-the-line model pricing" of 35% of the $114.9 million list price.[93] Likewise, Air Caraïbes subsidiary French Blue received its A330-300 for $100 million in September 2016.[94]

May 2016 market prices[95]
Aircraft List ($m) Mkt Value ($m) Discount Seats Mkt/Seat
A380 432.6 236.5 45% 544 434743
B777-300ER 339.6 154.8 54% 368 420652
A350-900 308.1 150.0 51% 325 461538
B787-9 264.6 142.8 46% 290 492414
B787-8 224.6 117.1 48% 242 483884
A330-300 256.4 109.5 57% 277 395307
A330-200 231.5 86.6 63% 247 350607
A321 114.9 52.5 54% 185 283784
A320neo 107.3 48.5 55% 165 293939
B737-900ER 101.9 48.1 53% 174 276437
B737-800 96.0 46.5 52% 160 290625
A320 98.0 44.4 55% 150 296000
A319 89.6 37.3 58% 124 300806
B737-700 80.6 35.3 56% 128 275781

This appears in the manufacturer's accounting: in their annual reports, Boeing values its 5,700 airliners order book at $416 billion using the contractual prices while Airbus has a backlog of 6,900 worth €1,010 ($1,200) billion at catalog prices, but when updating to more stringent IFRS-15 rules, Credit Suisse estimates it will be revised to €500 billion from 945.[96] Airbus will disclose its backlog value in its 2018 annual report at the latest.[97]

In January 2018, Airbus and Boeing raised their list prices by 2% and 4%, further obscuring pricing transparency as discount levels will rise and with the growing importance of aftermarket services, following the Power by the Hour engine maker model.[98]

In February 2018, Hawaiian Airlines cancelled its order for six Airbus A330-800s to replace them with Boeing 787-9s priced less than $100–115m, close to their production cost of $80–90m, while their normal sales price is around $125m.[99]

By mid 2019, market values are pressured downward by cheap fuel at $2-per-gallon down from $3 in 2011–2014, and low aircraft lease rates reaching less than 0.7% per month while lessors manage 45% of the deliveries. It is exacerbated for Boeing amid the Boeing 737 MAX groundings: the value of a new 737 Max 8 was reduced by 5% from 49.1 million to $46.7 million, while a new A320neo stays at $49.1 million according to FlightGlobal affiliate Ascend. The A330neo was developed at a fraction of the 787's cost, so Airbus can compete aggressively on price while the A330neo can almost match the 787's performance: Boeing had to discount the dreamliner to win recent deals and 787-9 values eroded from the low-$140 million range to the mid-$130 million range.[100]

Production planning[edit]

Former Airbus executive John Leahy indicated that Airbus has overbooked orders in its backlog, just as Boeing does, and uses internal algorithms to anticipate defections in order to maintain steady production.[101]

Effect of competition on product plans[edit]

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, Air Canada, and Lufthansa. After dominating the very large aircraft market for four decades, the Boeing 747 faced a challenge from the A380. In response, Boeing offered the stretched and updated 747-8, with greater capacity, fuel efficiency, and range. Frequent delays to the Airbus A380 program caused several customers to consider cancelling their orders in favour of the refreshed 747-8.[102] In February 2019 Airbus announced the end of the A380 production after the remaining orders would be delivered. By June 2019, 154 Boeing 747-8 were ordered and 134 delivered, while 290 Airbus A380 were ordered and 238 delivered.

Boeing pursued and then cancelled several projects, including the Sonic Cruiser. Boeing's current platform for fleet rejuvenation is the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which uses technology from the Sonic Cruiser concept.

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 percents. 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 was considerable demand. Southwest Airlines, which uses the 737 for its entire fleet (680 in service or on order), said it was not prepared to wait 20 years or more for a new 737 model and threatened to convert to Airbus.[103] Boeing eventually bowed to airline pressure and in 2011 approved the 737 MAX project, scheduled for first delivery in 2017.

Orders and deliveries[edit]

Orders for and deliveries of Airbus and Boeing aircraft

  Airbus orders
  Airbus deliveries
  Boeing orders
  Boeing deliveries
Annual net orders and aircraft deliveries by Airbus and Boeing Commercial Airplanes, respectively, since 1989.[104][105]


It took Boeing 42 years and 1 month to deliver its 10,000th 7series aircraft (October 1958 – November 2000), and 42 years and 5 months for Airbus to achieve the same milestone (May 1974 – October 2016).[106] Boeing deliveries considerably exceeded that of Airbus throughout the 1980s. In the 1990s, this lead narrowed significantly but Boeing remained ahead of Airbus. In the 2000s, Airbus assumed the lead in narrow-body aircraft. By 2010, little difference remained between Airbus and Boeing in both the wide-body or narrow-body categories or the range on offer.

Orders and deliveries by year[edit]

Figures in blue indicate the year leader for deliveries. Figures in green indicate the year leader for orders.
Boeing[107] Year Airbus[108]
Deliveries per model Deliveries Orders Orders Deliveries Deliveries per model
707 717 727 737 747 757 767 777 787 A220 A300 A310 A320 A330 A340 A350 A380
21 91 55 22 189 1974 4 4
7 91 51 21 170 1975 8 8
9 61 41 27 138 1976 13 13
8 67 25 20 120 1977 15 15
13 118 40 32 203 1978 15 15
6 136 77 67 286 1979 26 26
3 131 92 73 299 1980 39 39
2 94 108 53 257 1981 38 38
8 26 95 26 2 20 177 1982 46 46
8 11 82 22 25 55 203 1983 36 19 17
8 8 67 16 18 29 146 1984 48 19 29
3 115 24 36 25 203 1985 42 16 26
4 141 35 35 27 242 1986 29 10 19
9 161 23 40 37 270 1987 32 11 21
0 165 24 48 53 290 1988 61 17 28 16
5 146 45 51 37 284 563 1989 421 105 24 23 58
4 174 70 77 60 385 456 1990 404 95 19 18 58
14 215 64 80 62 435 240 1991 101 163 25 19 119
5 218 61 99 63 446 230 1992 136 157 22 24 111
0 152 56 71 51 330 220 1993 138 138 22 22 71 1 22
1 121 40 69 41 272 112 1994 125 123 23 2 64 9 25
89 25 43 37 13 207 379 1995 106 124 17 2 56 30 19
76 26 42 43 32 219 664 1996 326 126 14 2 72 10 28
135 39 46 42 59 321 532 1997 460 182 6 2 127 14 33
282 53 54 47 74 510 606 1998 556 229 13 1 168 23 24
12 320 47 67 44 83 573 355 1999 476 294 8 222 44 20
32 282 25 45 44 55 483 588 2000 520 311 8 241 43 19
49 299 31 45 40 61 525 314 2001 375 325 11 257 35 22
20 223 27 29 35 47 381 251 2002 300 303 9 236 42 16
12 173 19 14 24 39 281 239 2003 284 305 8 233 31 33
12 202 15 11 9 36 285 272 2004 370 320 12 233 47 28
13 212 13 2 10 40 290 1002 2005 1055 378 9 289 56 24
5 302 14 12 65 398 1044 2006 790 434 9 339 62 24
330 16 12 83 441 1413 2007 1341 453 6 367 68 11 1
290 14 10 61 375 662 2008 777 483 386 72 13 12
372 8 13 88 481 142 2009 281 498 402 76 10 10
376 0 12 74 462 530 2010 574 510 401 87 4 18
372 9 20 73 3 477 805 2011 1419 534 421 87 0 26
415 31 26 83 46 601 1203 2012 833 588 455 101 2 30
440 24 21 98 65 648 1355 2013 1503 626 493 108 25
485 19 6 99 114 723 1432 2014 1456 629 490 108 1 30
495 18 16 98 135 762 768 2015 1080 635 491 103 14 27
490 9 13 99 137 748 668 2016 731 688 7 545 66 49 28
529 14 10 74 136 763 912 2017 1109 718 17 558 67 78 15
580 6 27 48 145 806 893 2018 747 800 33 626 49 93 12
127 7 43 45 158 380 −87 2019 768 863 48 642 53 112 8
43 5 30 26 53 157 −1026 2020 268 566 38 446 19 59 4
67 2 29 8 11 94 77 2021 -35 170 12 139 3 16 0
1,010 155 1,831 10,681 1,561 1,049 1,213 1,661 1,003 20,164 Totals until 2021 13,362 155 561 255 9,832 1,514 377 422 246
707 717 727 737 747 757 767 777 787 Deliveries Orders Year Orders Deliveries A220 A300 A310 A320 A330 A340 A350 A380
Deliveries per model Deliveries per model
Boeing Airbus
707 717 727 737 747 757 767 777 787 Backlog A220 A300 A310 A320 A330 A340 A350 A380
3,239 12 95 266 433 4,045 Apr 30, 2021 30 Apr 2021 6,979 494 5,693 296 491 5

The former McDonnell Douglas MD-80, the MD-90 and the MD-11 are included in Boeing deliveries since MD's August 1997 merger with Boeing.

Airliners in service[edit]

World Airline Census
Year/Aircraft 707 717 727 737 747 757 767 777 787 Boeing[109] A220 A300 A310 A320 A330 A340 A350 A380 Airbus Ratio B:A
2006[110] 68 155 620 4328 989 996 862 575 8593 408 199 2761 418 306 4092 2.09:1
2007[111] 63 155 561 4583 985 1000 880 640 8867 392 193 3095 481 330 4491 1.97:1
2008[112] 61 154 500 4761 955 980 873 714 8998 387 194 3395 533 330 4 4843 1.86:1
2009[113] 58 142 442 4928 947 970 864 780 9131 376 188 3737 607 345 16 5269 1.73:1
2010[114][115] 39 147 398 5153 915 945 863 858 9318 348 160 4092 675 342 30 5647 1.65:1
2011[116] 10 130 250 5177 736 898 837 924 8962 296 121 4392 766 332 50 5957 1.50:1
2012[117] 2 143 169 5357 690 860 838 1017 15 9091 262 102 4803 848 312 76 6403 1.42:1
2013[118] 148 109 5458 627 855 821 1094 68 9180 234 84 5170 927 298 106 6819 1.35:1
2014[119][120] 154 87 5782 585 812 795 1188 163 9564 216 71 5632 1020 266 136 7341 1.30:1
2015[121] 136 69 6135 571 738 765 1265 286 9965 207 62 6050 1095 227 5 167 7813 1.28:1
2016[122][123] 154 64 6512 515 688 742 1324 423 10422 210 47 6510 1154 196 29 193 8339 1.25:1
2017[124][125] 154 57 6864 489 689 744 1387 554 10938 211 37 6965 1214 176 92 212 8907 1.23:1
2018[126] 148 44 7310 462 666 742 1416 675 11463 39 212 31 7506 1265 159 185 223 9620 1.19:1
2019[127] 145 40 7132 461 655 729 1424 808 11394 77 202 25 7913 1270 135 282 233 10137 1.12:1
2020[128] 91 34 5743 327 479 544 1041 728 8987 105 185 14 6269 755 59 293 18 7698 1.17:1
707 717 727 737 747 757 767 777 787 Total A220 A300 A310 A320 A330 A340 A350 A380 Total

Controversies[edit]

The Boeing 787 competes with the Airbus A350 (both pictured) and the Airbus A330neo

Subsidies[edit]

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.[129]

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.[130] Airbus contends that this system is fully compliant with the 1992 agreement and WTO rules. The agreement allows up to 33 percent 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.[131] Airbus claims that since the signing of the EU-US agreement in 1992, it has repaid European governments more than US$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 US defense contractor) are in effect a form of subsidy (see the KC-X program). The US government support of technology development via NASA also provides support to Boeing. In its recent products such as the 787, Boeing has also received support from local and state governments.[132] Airbus's 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.[133]

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[edit]

"We remain united in our determination that this dispute shall not affect our cooperation on wider bilateral and multilateral trade issues. We have worked together well so far, and intend to continue to do so."

Joint EU-US statement[134]

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.[135]

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.[136] An interim report of the WTO investigation into the claims made by both sides was made in September 2009.[137]

In March 2010, the WTO ruled that European governments unfairly financed Airbus.[138] In September 2010, a preliminary report of the WTO found unfair Boeing payments broke WTO rules and should be withdrawn.[139] 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.[140] 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.[141] Both parties claimed victory in what was the world's largest trade dispute.[142][143][144]

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.[145] 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.[146]

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.[147] 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.[148]

On 25 September 2012, the EU requested discussions with the US, because of the alleged 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 the USA's subsidy of Boeing. The WTO approved creating a panel to rule on the disputed compliance this was initially to rule in 2014 but is not now expected to complete its work before 2016 due to the complexity of the case. 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.[149][150]

On 19 December 2014, the EU requested WTO mediated consultations with the US over the tax incentives given by the state of Washington to large civil aircraft manufacturers which they believed violated the earlier WTO ruling, on 22 April 2015 at the request of the EU a WTO panel was set up to rule on the complaint.[151] The tax incentives given by the state of Washington and believed to be the largest in US history[152] surpassing the previous record of $5.6bn over 30 years awarded by the state of New York to the aluminum producer Alcoa in 2007. The $8.7bn over 40 years incentive to Boeing to manufacture the 777X in the state includes $4.2bn from a 40% reduction in business taxes, £3.5bn in tax credits for the firm, a $562m tax credit on property and buildings belonging to Boeing, a $242m sales tax exemption for buying computers and $8m to train 1000 workers,[153] Airbus alleges this is larger than the budgeted cost of Boeing's 777X development program and the EU argues amounts to an entire publicly funded free aircraft program for Boeing, the legislation was an extension of the duration of a tax break program given to Boeing for Dreamliner development that had already been ruled illegal by the WTO in 2012.[154] Boeing defends the allegation by arguing the subsidies are available to anyone however for an aircraft to qualify for the tax breaks a company must manufacture aircraft wings and perform all final assembly for an aircraft model or variant exclusively in the state.[155]

In September 2016, the WTO found that Airbus did not remedy the harm to Boeing from illegal subsidies, and the EU immediately appealed for a final decision in late spring 2018. Boeing expect the 2016 decision will be largely maintained with sanctions between $10 to $15 billion, which could be levied by punitive tariffs by the US government, but the EU would retaliate strongly. The EU case against Boeing filed as a countersuit lags the US case and the decision on Boeing's appeal will not come out until late in 2018 or even in 2019.[156] Both are exposed with a backlog of 644 Boeing orders in the EU and 1,340 Airbus orders in the US, but this is mitigated as many are from lessors, to be delivered elsewhere, and as Airbus has an assembly line in Alabama.[157]

On 15 May 2018, in its EU appeal ruling, the WTO concluded that the A380 and A350 received improper subsidies through repayable launch aids or low interest rates, like previous airliners, which could have been avoided. Boeing claimed victory but Airbus countered it is thin with 94% of the complaints rejected, as launch aids are legal but at market interest rates, not lower: violations will be corrected. US tariffs, probably on other industries, may take up to 18 months to get WTO approval, but EU could retaliate over Washington State 787 subsidies and tax breaks for the 777X.[158] The US will pursue penalties if an agreement cannot be reached but is willing to reach a settlement with the European Union.[159]

Tariffs[edit]

On 9 April 2019, the US Government announced that it would pursue penalties by placing tariffs on Airbus and other European Union goods over Airbus' improper subsidies, in an apparent act of retaliation. In response, Bruno Le Maire, France's financial minister, said that a "friendly" solution should be made.[160][161][162][163] On 1 July, the US Government proposed more tariffs for the same reason.[164]

On 24 September the same year, it was announced that the WTO would authorize the US to place the tariffs. The WTO stated that the $8 billion USD of EU goods could be affected by the tariffs.[165]

The WTO announced the allowed level of punitive tariffs on 30 September, around $5-10 billion down from the $25 billion asked for, then the USTR should issue a list of products to be taxed from year-end. By mid-2020, the WTO is slated to determine the allowed EU punitive tariffs, as the EU claims $20 billion in damages. It would damage both sides, with Boeing having the most to lose as US Aerospace and defense exports to Europe totals $30.5 billion, while imports are $23.6 billion.[166]

On 2 October 2019, the WTO approved US tariffs on $7.5 billion worth of European goods,[167] and officially authorized them on 14 October, despite the European Union urging for a negotiated settlement.[168][169]

After midnight on 18 October, the US tariffs went into effect. The tariffs target Airbus, wine, and other European goods.[170][171]

On 15 February 2020, the US government announced that they would increase tariffs on Airbus aircraft from 10% to 15%. Airbus expressed regret at the statement.[172] The increased tariffs went into effect on 17 February.[173][174] In an attempt to reduce the threat of retaliatory tariffs by the European Union on exports from Washington state, Boeing requested on 19 February that the Washington State Legislature suspend its preferential business-and-occupation tax rate, which saves Boeing around $100 million annually. The WTO ruled in March of the previous year that the tax breaks for Boeing by the state of Washington constituted illegal US subsidies, but determined that, except for the tax break which Boeing requested suspension of, the European Union had no grounds to seek damages.[175]

On 30 September 2020, the WTO approved the European Union's retaliatory tariffs on $4.1 billion worth of US goods, this is in addition to the previous unimplemented sanction allowing the EU the right to impose tariffs of up to $8.2 billion on US goods and services.[176][177][178] On 11 October acting European Commissioner for Trade Valdis Dombrovskis urged the US to withdraw its tariffs, reiterating retaliatory action.[179] Two days later on 13 October the WTO authorized the EU's tariffs.[180] The next day, on 14 October, the US finally offered to remove their tariffs if Airbus would refinance the state loans at a level of interest that assumed a 50% product failure rate. The EU criticized the deal as "unacceptable" due to its cost estimated to be around $10 billion along with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the aviation industry. The US argued that European tariffs on US goods were unnecessary as the local tax subsidies for Boeing had ended while Airbus countered that the US was still applying import tariffs even though the A380 was no longer in production. Further talks with the WTO regarding the tariffs are scheduled for 26 October, however, the tariffs may only go into effect depending on the results on the 2020 United States presidential election.[181][182][183][184] On 9 November the WTO announced that the EU's tariffs would still go into effect,[185] though the EU indicated it was hopeful a settlement could be reached with the new US administration in 2021.[186][187] On 13 November Bruno Le Maire said a settlement could potentially be reached in several weeks.[188] Both sides resumed negotiations on 2 December.[189] In an attempt to reduce tensions, the United Kingdom dropped its own tariffs on US goods on 8 December.[190]

On 30 December 2020, the US government announced that it would widen its current tariffs on EU goods, it said it was unfair that the duties for the EU sanctions upon the US were calculated during the Covid-19 outbreak when US exports were smaller than usual increasing the number of US goods to which tariffs needed to be applied to reach the WTO's approved sanction value.[191] The widening took effect on 12 January 2021.[192][193]

On 4 March, the U.S government suspended its tariffs on UK goods as part of resolving the dispute.[194] The next day, on 5 March, the US and EU both suspended their tariffs on their respective goods for the same reason.[195][196] On 22 March, U.S. trade representative Katherine Tai held a meeting with E.U. trade commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis and U.K. trade secretary Liz Truss to begin negotiations to end the dispute.[197]

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