During the first two months of 2019, Boeing posted solid aircraft order activity, while top rival Airbus' backlog shrank significantly due to a slew of order cancellations.
Boeing Co. orders nearly halved in the first quarter and the planemaker handed over far fewer aircraft, as it struggles with a worldwide grounding of its best-selling 737 MAX jets following two fatal crashes.
Boeing total orders, an indication of future demand, fell to 95 aircraft in the first quarter from 180 a year earlier. There were no new MAX orders in March, the company said.
Airbus had better luck last month, March, offsetting some of the order cancellations it suffered earlier in the year. Nevertheless, Boeing still topped its European rival in terms of net commercial aircraft orders for the month of March. This feat was particularly remarkable in light of the global grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX several weeks ago.
Despite securing 41 net orders last month, Airbus still ended the first quarter with just 62 new firm orders year to date, compared to 120 cancellations. The European aerospace giant still has some work to do just to get its net order total for 2019 into positive territory.
That means that Boeing is ahead of its European rival Airbus, which last week said it had won 62 gross orders during the first three months of 2019 but some 120 cancellations left it with a negative net order.
That said, Boeing booked 91 net firm orders in the first quarter of 2019: 149 better than Airbus' negative 58.
A solid month for Airbus -but it's still in the red.
In March, Airbus booked 58 orders, offset by 17 cancellations. Importantly, 38 of the 58 orders received last month were for Airbus A350s, an aircraft family that has faced a steadily shrinking backlog in recent years. That's in contrast to all of the cancellations related to A320neo-family aircraft, which Airbus has a backlog of nearly 6,000 unfilled orders.
Boeing's order performance last quarter was certainly impressive, but the current grounding of the 737 MAX, its top-selling model, let alone, the best selling airliner ever; will make it hard to build on that momentum.
Boeing has already developed and started testing software updates that should prevent a repeat of the two disastrous crashes that led to the 737 MAX being grounded. However, until regulators have approved the fixes, airlines are likely to shy away from ordering more 737 MAXs. Even after the global 737 MAX fleet gets back in the air, some airlines may choose to wait for a while to make sure there are no more issues before considering further orders. A case in point, Southwest doesn't plan to use Boeing Max jets until August.
However, With the biggest airshow of the year coming up soon, Airbus will have a big advantage in terms of winning new business. Furthermore, several airlines have indicated that they may cancel some or all of their 737 MAX orders.
Thus, even with its big head start, Boeing isn't likely to beat Airbus for a second straight year in the annual order race.