Aerospace & Defense

Orders Slow Down for New Boeing, Airbus Airplanes 

The Paris Air Show is winding down, at least the part where aircraft makers indulge in touting new orders for their pricey products. As of midafternoon Paris time, neither The Boeing Co. (NYSE: BA) nor arch-rival Airbus has revealed a new order or commitment.

The big news on Wednesday was a report that American Airlines Group Inc. (NASDAQ: AAL) had agreed to buy 50 of Airbus’s newly announced A321XLR single-aisle passenger jet. However, neither Airbus nor American has yet issued an official announcement of the agreement. According to Reuters, the order consists of 30 conversions from a previous American order for 30 A321neo jets and a new order for 20 of the new planes.

The American agreement is the second time that the airline has surprised Boeing by ordering an Airbus jet. The first came in 2011 when the airline announced it would buy the then-new Airbus A320neo, a direct competitor to Boeing’s venerable 737.

That announcement pushed Boeing to come up quickly with a new airplane–and the 737 MAX was born. Before the grounding of the 737 MAX following two crashes that killed 346 people, Boeing was expected to announce “authority to offer, the company’s long-awaited New Midsize Aircraft, variously called the NMA or the 797, a direct competitor to the new Airbus plane. A decision to build the NMA was postponed until next year.

Boeing’s unannounced NMA and the Airbus A321XLR are niche airplanes aimed at filling a gap in the market left following Boeing’s decision to stop building its 757 (single-aisle) and 767 (twin-aisle) passenger jets. The A321XLR is a single-aisle plane that Airbus says will carry up to 244 passengers in a single-class configuration on trips of up to 4,700 nautical miles (about 5,400 miles). Boeing’s twin-aisle NMA, though not yet officially confirmed, is expected to carry up to 275 passengers in a single-class configuration on trips of up to 5,000 nautical miles (about 5,750 miles). Airbus has set first customer delivery of the A321XLR for 2023; if Boeing goes ahead with the NMA, the new plane is not expected to see first deliveries until 2025.

As for Wednesday’s scorecard, Airfinance Journal noted that American’s agreement to purchase 20 A321XLRs along with the Qantas order for 10 of the new planes gives Airbus a firm order total of 30 for the day. The European aircraft maker also signed commitments for an additional 43 planes.

Boeing signed no firm orders Wednesday. In fact, according to Airfinance Journal, the company had not taken a single firm order in the first three days of the show. Boeing did sign commitments for 12 of its 777s on Wednesday. The company did make a splash on Tuesday with an announcement that International Air Group would purchase 200 of its MAX family planes.