Airbus to fall just short of 800-plane delivery goal: Sources

Airbus had initially aimed to ship close to 820 planes in 2018, including the C Series model acquired in the summer from Bombardier Inc. and renamed the A220.
Airbus had initially aimed to ship close to 820 planes in 2018, including the C Series model acquired in the summer from Bombardier Inc. and renamed the A220.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (BLOOMBERG) Airbus SE narrowly missed its reduced target for aircraft deliveries last year even after the company's factories operated until the last minutes of Dec 31 to complete remaining jetliners, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

Handovers topped 790 but failed to reach the goal of about 800, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified discussing confidential figures.

Getting close to the target still represents a victory of sorts for incoming CEO Guillaume Faury, the commercial aircraft chief who made a mission of coping with production challenges after a year of harrowing setbacks. Airbus delivered more than a quarter of its annual output in the final two months, after persistent engine issues at the start of the year had led to a halt in handovers and scores of parked planes.

Toulouse, France-based Airbus declined to comment. The group is scheduled to release official numbers on Jan 11. If confirmed, the delivery figures also mean Airbus fell short of the 810 to 815 handovers targeted by archrival Boeing Co, which also kept some plants operating through the holidays.

Airbus had initially aimed to ship close to 820 planes in 2018, including the C Series model acquired in the summer from Bombardier Inc and renamed the A220. It cut that target in October amid production headaches at engine makers and needed to hand over 127 aircraft in December to meet the more modest goal, matching a record monthly tally from a year earlier.

Shares of the planemaker dropped as much as 7.9 per cent in Paris before closing down 3.5 per cent at €81.21. The stock was little changed in 2018 as Airbus struggled to lift delivery rates to fulfil a record order backlog. Boeing gained about 9 per cent in 2018.

Airbus fell behind the planned delivery curve early in 2018 as engine issues afflicted its top-selling A320neo single-aisle jet, with a factory in Hamburg also struggling to keep up with demand for the long-range A321 variant. The group finally cut its forecast amid slow turbine production for the A330neo wide-body at Rolls-Royce Holdings.

Airbus said on Thursday it had firmed up critical orders for the A220 from US discounter JetBlue Airways Corp and its founder David Neeleman's new airline Moxy, which were originally announced at the Farnborough Air Show in July.

The deals, for 120 aircraft in total, were finalised in December, according to the planemaker, allowing them to be counted against 2018's order tally.