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Airbus Sees Deliveries Plunge 34% as COVID-19 Takes Toll on Airlines

By Lou Whiteman - Jan 8, 2021 at 4:41PM

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The company did enough to beat out Boeing in 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused Airbus ( EADSY 3.62% ) deliveries to slump in 2020, but the European aerospace giant still did enough to come out ahead of archrival Boeing ( BA 3.72% ) and maintain its title as world's largest planemaker for a second year.

Airbus said Friday it delivered 566 aircraft for the year, down 34% from a record 863 deliveries a year prior. Airlines in 2020 were hit hard by the pandemic, which depressed travel demand and forced carriers to rethink growth plans.

Airbus announced 268 aircraft sales for the year, adjusted for cancellations, a decline of 65% from 768 in 2019.

An Airbus A320neo in flight.

Image source: Airbus.

There are some hopeful signs heading into 2021. The rollout of vaccines could help to restore travel demand in certain parts of the world by summer, and airlines are slowly moving out of crisis mode and planning for a recovery. December was Airbus' strongest month of the year, with a total of 89 deliveries.

"Working hand-in-hand with our customers allowed us to navigate a difficult year," Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury said in a statement. "Based on our 2020 deliveries we are cautiously optimistic as we look into 2021, although challenges and uncertainties remain high in the short term."

Boeing has faced the same COVID-19 challenge as Airbus, but also was dealing with the continued grounding of its 737 MAX after a pair of fatal accidents. Boeing delivered 118 jets between January and November and had a negative total of 454 net orders before accounting adjustments, giving Airbus an unassailable lead for the year. MAX deliveries resumed in December.

The 737, including the MAX and other variants, represent 78% of Boeing's order book. The plane was cleared to fly in mid-November after 20 months on the ground, allowing deliveries to resume, but the issues led to a lost year for Boeing.

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