Aviation industry revival: Airbus recovers as Boeing reels from crises

Nov 14, 2021: The aviation industry is gradually recovering from last year’s pandemic induced slump, but European aircraft maker Airbus is traveling smoother than American rival Boeing, which has faced a number of crises.

The world’s dominant aerospace companies will be looking for new businesses as they attend the five-day Dubai Air Show on Sunday, the industry’s first major event since the outbreak of the epidemic last year. But while Airbus has returned to profitability and delivered 460 aircraft in the first 10 months of the year, Boeing is in the red and has delivered only 268 aircraft.

Boeing’s 737 MAX returned to the skies last year when the entire fleet was grounded for 20 months after two crashes – in Ethiopia and Indonesia – in which 346 people were killed.

About 370 aircraft remain in inventory, and Boeing chief executive David Calhoun said it would take two years to sell them all. The 737 MAX has yet to be re-certified in China, a major market for aircraft manufacturers. Calhoun says Boeing’s production plans will depend on access to the Chinese market.

The 787 Dreamliner had its share of problems, which cost the company an estimated 1 billion. The company halted shipments of the 787 in May after a series of problems with the aircraft – the second suspension last year. Boeing announced in July that it had noticed additional problems near the nose of the plane and was working to fix them.

A delay for the first deliveries of its new wide-body 777X plane, which were pushed back from 2022 to late 2023 is costing the company an additional $6.5 billion.

When Covid cut long-haul flights it also hit Boeing’s strong point, long-haul aircraft, as international travel has been curbed by pandemic restrictions, said Remy Bonnery, an analyst at Archery Strategy Consulting.

International air traffic is expected to return to pre-pandemic levels only between 2023 and 2025. Domestic air travel, meanwhile, is performing better – benefiting Airbus and its A320 family of narrow-bodied aircraft.

Airbus will showcase its latest single oil aircraft A321neo in Dubai. The company aims to release the long-range version of the aircraft, the A321XLR, in 2023, which can fly for up to 10 hours – a feat that has so far only been achieved by large aircraft.

Boeing decided last year to hold off on launching its New Midsize Aircraft (NMA) project. The plan was to deliver by 2025 an aircraft that could transport up to 275 passengers nearly 9,000 kilometres.

Boeing would have to launch a new plane to claw back market share, said Michel Merluzeau, an analyst at AIR consultancy. Regaining a place on the market “is very complicated and very expensive” — at least $15 billion — he said.

Boeing’s debt has increased five-fold in less than three years to $62 billion.

It would be hard for Boeing to get a new plane out before 2028-2029, according to Merluzeau.

David Calhoun meanwhile indicated in October that the company has put a team together to design a new plane and production system.

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