Airbus Struggles to Ramp up Jet Deliveries

June 13, 2024
Still impacted by the labor shrinkage at its suppliers during the global pandemic, Airbus is facing parts shortages and has fallen behind schedule to meet its 2024 production target of 800 jets.

With air travel booming again and airlines desperate for new airplanes, Airbus is struggling to ramp up to meet the demand even as Boeing falls further behind.

Boeing is in crisis, with production of its top selling 737 Max suppressed as its leadership strives to satisfy regulators that they have control of manufacturing quality.

Meanwhile Airbus, still impacted by the labor shrinkage at its suppliers during the global pandemic, is facing parts shortages and has fallen behind schedule to meet its 2024 production target of 800 jets.

Data released Tuesday shows Boeing delivered just 24 airplanes in May, including 19 of its troubled 737 Maxes. That’s down from 50 deliveries in May last year.

Some of those will have come from the inventory of parked jets requiring rework since the jets were grounded after two deadly crashes five years ago. So the production rate of new Maxes is even lower.

In addition, discovery in late April that some mechanics in Boeing South Carolina had falsified production records for the 787 Dreamliner widebody jet triggered inspections of 787s already built, so deliveries of those jets were also down in May, with just two delivered compared to eight a year earlier.

One of that pair of 787s was delivered to China Southern. That plane was approved for delivery in early May, but since then deliveries to China have paused.

In the latest delivery hitch, the Chinese aviation regulator CACC is reviewing batteries that power the 25-hour cockpit voice recorder assembly in all Boeing jets.

Airbus did better in May, delivering 53 commercial airplanes, including 41 of its A320neo jet family that competes with the Max. But that’s down from 63 a year ago.

Through the end of May, Boeing in 2024 delivered 131 jets, compared to 206 in the first five months of last year.

Airbus, despite production faltering in May, has delivered 256 jets so far this year, up 5% from the 244 deliveries through the end of May last year. Still, it needs to ramp up more to meet this year’s delivery target, which is 9% higher than last year.

Shortages of forgings and airliner seats threaten delays to production of several dozen Airbus jets in the second half of the year, Reuters reported from Paris late last month.

Airlines need more jets, but they aren’t available

The latest data from the International Air Transport Association shows global passenger demand in April was up 11% compared to a year earlier.

Yet since Boeing’s crisis erupted following the midair blowout of a fuselage panel on an Alaska Airlines flight in January, Southwest and American have cut 2024 fleet growth plans and pilot hiring because of Boeing’s inability to deliver the number of jets previously promised.

It’s not just the Max problems. For American, that includes fewer 787 widebody deliveries than expected. Boeing has historically led Airbus in the widebody market.

In May, Boeing delivered five widebody jets: two 787 Dreamliners, one 767 freighter and two 767-based airframes for the Air Force KC-46 tanker.

Airbus delivered six widebody jets: two midsize A330-900s and four large A350s.

Separately, Airbus also delivered six smaller single-aisle A220s.

Meanwhile, Airbus had a successful sales month in May, with a total of 27 net orders.

Those consisted of 20 widebody A330-900 widebody jets to an unidentified customer and seven of its hot-selling A321neos to private equity firm Nordic Capital.

Boeing won only three net orders in May, with an order for four 787-10s from Taiwan’s Eva Air and one 737 Max canceled by Aerolíneas Argentinas.

Boeing has secured 103 net orders so far this year. And because it has restored a net total of 27 previously uncertain orders to its firm backlog, through May its order book has actually grown by 130.

In that same period, Airbus has won 237 net orders.

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