Boeing Delivers More Jets Than Airbus In 2017, But Airbus Flying Toward Lead

With great demand on both companies, Boeing and Airbus have a combined backlog of over 13,000 planes.

A Qatar Airways Boeing 777 airplane is shown at a ceremony in Washington.
Ted S. Warren / AP Images

With great demand on both companies, Boeing and Airbus have a combined backlog of over 13,000 planes.

Data released this week shows that in 2017, the American plane manufacturing giant Boeing Co. once again out-delivered its chief rival, Airbus SE. The two companies are engaged in a duel of the skies, each vying to be the largest manufacturer of jet airplanes on the planet, with both having a claim to the title.

As reported by MarketWatch, last year Boeing delivered a company record 763 commercial planes — one plane above its previous record in 2015 — while Airbus delivered 718, also a record for that company. But those numbers do not tell the entire story in an industry that is seeing tremendous growth. While Boeing achieved the greater amount of plane deliveries, Airbus outbooked Boeing in 2017.

Benjamin Katz of Bloomberg News noted that Airbus has outbooked their rival for the past six years. Data on contracts booked for each manufacturer shows that in 2017, Airbus booked 1,109 contracts to build new airplanes while Boeing booked 912. However, because Boeing’s orders include a greater amount of large planes, such as the 787 and the widebody 777, the Seattle-based company took in more money than Airbus.

Jet Orders For Airbus Fly High

In what may be a sign of the future, the Toulouse, France-based Airbus’ bookings for 2017 were up a whopping 52 percent from 2016, the biggest gains the company has experienced in a single year. Those numbers prompted Fabrice Bergier, the company’s outgoing chief operating officer, to predict that Airbus will soon be out-delivering Boeing.

“I bet that in 2020 we will deliver more aircraft than Boeing,” Bregier told media during a recent conference call. “I’m not the outgoing guy saying now everything is perfect, you just push a button, it will deliver. There will be challenges as always at Airbus, but these challenges are manageable.”

Much of the boom in aircraft building is being fueled by orders from budget airlines.

IndiGo is a successful budget airline company that has hundres of Airbus A320 commerical planes on order.
  Rishabh R. Jain / AP Images

Boeing, Airbus: Backlog of orders

The boom has led to increasingly large backlogs for airplane manufacturing companies. Airbus leads in that category, with a backlog of 7,265 planes on order, while Boeing has 5,864 planes on order.

MarketWatch notes that each company has had difficulty “at times…getting planes out the door” due in part to supply issues. Boeing said that its backlog is equal to seven years worth of production.

Boeing’s most popular plane is the single-aisle 737, with CNBC reporting that Boeing logged 745 orders for the mid-sized jet last year, up 35 percent from the year before. The most popular Airbus jet is their narrowbody A320; Airbus took in more than 1,000 orders for that plane last year.