Both Airbus and Boeing walked away from the Paris Air Show with substantial orders to add to their books. Although the industry was predicting a downturn in order placements this year, it turned out to be a respectable forum for business deals overall. But who did best in the Airbus vs Boeing stakes?

Airbus orders and commitments

The A220, as expected, was a popular model at the Air Show for Airbus. Air Lease went for an additional 10 of the planes, taking their orders to a total of 50. Delta Air Lines selected the higher maximum take-off weight version, swapping five outstanding orders to the A220-100. NAC added the A220 also, with an MoU for 20 of the type, and an undisclosed customer signed MoUs for 10.

The A330-900 neo performed well for Airbus too, with Philippine airline Cebu Pacific committing to 16 of the type. Controversially, they plan to pack the A330 with no less than 460 seats in an all-economy layout. Virgin Atlantic also committed to the A330neo, with firm orders for eight and options for another six. It’s also leasing six more from Air Lease.

The A320neo family did amazingly well for Airbus, counting for 238 of the orders announced at the show. Dublin based lessor Accipiter Holdings signed up for 20 of the A320neos, although this order was made in March but with the customer listed as ‘undisclosed’. China Airlines ordered 25 of the A320neo, and Saudia committed to 30 A320 family aircraft, 15 of which will be the A320neo.

Cebu Pacific also ordered five A320neos, and Air Asia came in with a massive upsizing order to convert 253 of their A320neo orders to the A321 neo.

But the absolute star of the show this year was undoubtedly the A321XLR. Announced by Airbus on the first day of the show, the aircraft went on to secure hundreds of orders from no less than 11 customers. The 4,700nmi narrow-body plane seems to be what the industry has been crying out for, putting Boeing’s plans for an NMA somewhat on the back foot.

Day three was a big winner for the XLR too, with a massive order from Indigo Partners. The newly ordered 32 of the A321XLR, and also converted 18 existing A320 family orders to the new plane. American Airlines too converted 30 of their outstanding orders to the new long-range variant and added another 20 of the type to their order, due for delivery in 2025.

Qantas committed to 36 of the type, ordering 10 additional aircraft and converting 26 of its outstanding 99 A320neo orders to the XLR. And, in a last-minute moment of showmanship from Airbus, they announced an order of 13 A321XLRs by JetBlue, all of which were converted from outstanding aircraft orders.

Boeing orders and commitments

Boeing’s order book looks, unsurprisingly, somewhat bare in comparison to Airbus. They’ve struggled this year to attract customers, with their bestselling jet grounded (and looking to remain that way for some time) and their newest plane, the 777X, notably absent from the show due to engine issues.

Still, they managed to put on a good show and secured almost as great of an order value overall as Airbus.

Cleaning up the most widebody orders was Korean Air, who signed an MoU for 20 new Dreamliner. This was split between the 787-9 and the 787-10, with 10 of each being added to the fleet. The Seoul carrier also said they will add 10 more 787-10s to be supplied by Korean Air Lease.

Korean Air Lease themselves also ordered the Dreamliner, adding 10 on an MoU as a new order. Just one 777 sold at the show, a 777-200LR bought by Turkmenistan Airlines.

A good seller for Boeing was their 777 freighter, of which Qatar bought five and China Airlines six. Their Boeing Converted 737 Freighter, on display at the Air Show in Prime Air livery, also sold well, with ASL Aviation Holdings ordering 10 of the type with 10 options. GECAS also converted options to firm orders for 10 of the type and added another 15 options for the 737-800BCF.

So, who wins?

With both Boeing and Airbus having dismal months for sales in the lead up to the show, it’s reassuring to see both secured new business during the event.

Contractually, Airbus secured almost 700 new deals, although around half of those are conversions as airlines choose to upsize existing orders. It’s also questionable whether Boeing’s orders for the 737 BCF should be considered ‘new’, as they’ve already been sold once and are not newly manufactured aircraft.

There’s also the question of firm orders versus memorandums of understanding versus letters of intent. In legal terms, a letter of intent is weaker than an MoU, which is all the IAG order actually is. Firm orders were seriously lacking at both the manufacturers, although Airbus secured significantly more than Boeing.

Overall, Airbus takes the crown, with their new A321XLR clearly being a massive hit with both airlines and lessors. Airbus actually exceeded all expectations and surpassed the number of new orders and commitments at the last Paris Air Show by 47 aircraft. Conversely, Boeing struggled to even get close to the 571 orders they secured in 2017 and would have endured something of a washout if it wasn’t for the IAG 200 plane rescue deal.

Overall, it’s been another great show and we can’t wait for Farnborough next year!



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