The global aerospace duopoly of Airbus and Boeing managed to sell just one aircraft in June, as the virus outbreak’s economic impact on the aviation industry and the grounded MAX scandal continue to affect order books.
According to sales figures released this month by pan-European conglomerate Airbus and US firm Boeing, just one new aircraft was ordered in June and it was not even a passenger plane. Delivery giant FedEx bought a cargo aircraft from Boeing.
Coronavirus has had a significant impact on the aviation industry, prompting airlines to massively scale back any plans they had for expansion in the coming years, as the sector does not expect air traffic to reach pre-crisis levels for some time.
Airbus, which was preparing to ramp up production after registering a large number of orders in 2019, did not log a single sale in June but did manage to keep delivering planes to existing clients.
The firm said in a statement that it “delivered 36 commercial aircraft in June 2020, compared to 24 in May and 14 in April, bringing the total for the first half of the year to 196 deliveries. This compares to 389 deliveries in H1 2019. The decrease reflects the COVID-19 crisis.”
Thirty-one of Airbus’ June deliveries were of its A320neo, a direct competitor to Boeing’s 737 MAX, which is still grounded pending recertification by aviation regulators, following two deadly crashes in recent years.
The pandemic has compounded the effects of the MAX affair, which already threatened to disrupt Boeing’s commercial business, as clients and passengers both started to lose faith in the planemaker’s safety record.
Indeed, despite winning June 1-0 against Airbus, the US firm also saw 60 orders for MAX aircraft cancelled and was forced to remove a further 123 planes from its order books as doubts over its capacity to deliver finally told.
Boeing has only registered 59 sales – plus 323 cancellations – in total this year, while Airbus logged 298 orders.
Boeing CFO Greg Smith said its defence and space contracts “will continue to provide some stability as we navigate through the pandemic and rebuild stronger on the other side” but the firm is still reliant on the MAX returning to service.
The US regulator, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), started test flights on the grounded plane last week as part of its in-depth recertification process. FAA approval is required before the aircraft can resume flying in US airspace.
Even the blessing of the FAA will not be the end of the saga though, as its European counterpart – EASA – is insistent on performing its own test flights before granting the green light for the MAX to operate on this side of the Atlantic.
However, virus travel restrictions mean there “is no firm timetable”, according to an EASA spokesperson, who told EURACTIV that the agency’s experts need to be able to rely on transatlantic travel to even start the process.
Airbus and Boeing are the subject of a bitter trade spat between Brussels and Washington, as part of a World Trade Organisation dispute over subsidies and the implementation of tariffs on other goods.
Last week, the EU said it would “act decisively” if the US follows through on its threat to slap charges on imports such as beer, gin and automobiles.
The WTO ruled last year that the EU continues to provide unfair subsidies to Airbus. Later this year, it will rule on whether the US was also guilty of propping up Boeing unfairly with grants and subsidies.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]