The competition between Airbus and Boeing has been characterised as a duopoly in the large jet airliner market since the 1990s. This resulted from a series of mergers within the global aerospace industry, with Airbus beginning as a European consortium while the American Boeing absorbed its former arch-rival, McDonnell Douglas, in a 1997 merger. Other manufacturers, such as Lockheed Martin, Convair and Fairchild Aircraft in the United States, and British Aerospace and Fokker in Europe, were no longer in a position to compete effectively and withdrew from this market.
In the 10 years from 2007 to 2016, Airbus has received 9,985 orders while delivering 5,644, and Boeing has received 8,978 orders while delivering 5,718. In the midst of their intense competition, each company regularly accuses the other of receiving unfair state aid from their respective governments.
Passenger capacity and range comparison
Airbus and Boeing have wide product ranges including single-aisle and wide-body aircraft covering a variety of combinations of capacity and range.
|Type||length||span||MTOW||pax||range||list price (USD)|
|737 MAX-7||35.6 m||35.9 m||80.3 t||138||3825 nm||$96.0M|
|A319neo||33.84 m||35.8 m||75.5 t||140||3750 nm||$101.5M|
|A320neo||37.57 m||35.8 m||79 t||165||3500 nm||$110.6M|
|737 MAX-8||39.5 m||35.9 m||82.19 t||162||3515 nm||$117.1M|
|737 MAX-9||42.11 m||35.9 m||88.31 t||180||3515 nm||$120.2M|
|A321neo||44.51 m||35.8 m||97 t||206||4000 nm||$129.5M|
|737 MAX-10||43.8 m||35.9 m||TBA||188||3215 nm||$129.9M|
Flight Global fleet forecasts 26,860 single aisle deliveries for a $1,360 Bn value at a compound annual growth rate of 5% for the 2016-2035 period, with a 45% market share for Airbus (12090), 43% for Boeing (11550), 5% for Bombardier Aerospace (1340), 4% for COMAC (1070) and 3% for Irkut Corporation (810) ; Airbus predicts 23,531 and Boeing 28,140. Single aisles generates a vast majority of profits for both, followed by legacy twin aisles like the A330 and B777: Kevin Michaels of AeroDynamic Advisory estimates the 737 have a 30% profit margin and the 777 classic 20%.
See also: Middle of the market
|Type||length||span||MTOW||pax||range||list price (USD)|
|787-8||56.69 m||60.17 m||227.93 t||242||7355 nm||$239.0M|
|A330neo-800||58.82 m||64 m||242 t||257||7500 nm||$259.9M|
|A350-800||60.45 m||64.75 m||259 t||280||8200 nm||$280.6M|
|787-9||63 m||60.17 m||254 t||290||7635 nm||$281.6M|
|A330neo-900||63.66 m||64 m||242 t||287||6550 nm||$296.4M|
|A350-900||66.80 m||64.75 m||280 t||325||8100 nm||$317.4M|
|787-10||68.27 m||60.17 m||254 t||330||6430 nm||$325.8M|
|A350-1000||73.79 m||64.75 m||308 t||366||7950 nm||$366.5M|
|777X-8||69.8 m||71.8 m||351.5 t||350-375||8700 nm||$394.9M|
|777X-9||76.7 m||71.8 m||351.5 t||414||7600 nm||$425.8M|
|Type||length||span||MTOW||pax||range||list price (USD)|
|A380||72.72 m||79.75 m||575 t||544||8200 nm||$445.6M|
|747-8||76.3 m||68.4 m||447.7 t||410||7730 nm||$402.9M|
Flight Global fleet forecasts 7,960 twin aisle deliveries for a $1,284 Bn value for the 2016-2035 period. They predict the B787 taking 31% of the market share, followed by the A350 with 27% and the 777 with 21%, then the A330 and A380 each taking 7%. In June 2017, The orderbook was for 1038 Airbus (41%) and 1,514 Boeings (59%).
Cargo capacity and range comparison
|Type||length||span||MTOW||capacity||range||list price (USD)|
|A320P2F||37.57 m||35.8 m||78.0 t||21.0 t||2100 nm||converted|
|737-800BCF||39.5 m||35.8 m||79.0 t||22.7 t||2000 nm||converted|
|A321P2F||44.51 m||35.8 m||93.5 t||27.0 t||1900 nm||converted|
|767-300BCF||54.94 m||50.9 m||186.9 t||51.7 t||3300 nm||converted|
|767-300F||54.94 m||47.57 m||186.9 t||52.5 t||3260 nm||$203.7M|
|A330-200P2F||58.82 m||60.3 m||233.0 t||59.0 t||4000 nm||converted|
|A330-200F||58.82 m||60.3 m||233.0 t||70.0 t||4000 nm||$237.0M|
|A330-300P2F||63.67 m||60.3 m||233.0 t||61.0 t||3600 nm||converted|
|777F||63.73 m||64.80 m||347.8 t||102.0 t||4970 nm||$325.7M|
|747-8F||76.3 m||68.4 m||447.7 t||137.7 t||4120 nm||$387.5M|
Airbus A320 vs Boeing 737
In terms of sales, while the Boeing 737 Next Generation outsold the Airbus A320 family since its introduction in 1988, it is still lagging overall with 7,033 orders against 7,940 in January 2016. Airbus received 4,471 orders since the A320neo family launch in December 2010, while the 737 MAX got 3,072 from August 2011 till January 2016. In the same timeframe, the neo had 3,355 orders. Through August, Airbus have a 59.4% market share of the re-engined single aisle market, while Boeing had 40.6%; Boeing has doubts on over-ordered A320 neos by new operators and expects to narrow the gap with replacements not already ordered. In July 2017, Airbus still had sold 1,350 more A320neos than Boeing had sold 737 MAXs.
In terms of deliveries, Boeing has shipped 9,522 aircraft of the 737 family since late 1967, with 8,016 of those deliveries since March 1, 1988, and has a further 4,430 on firm order as of May 2017. In comparison, Airbus has delivered 7,610 A320 series aircraft since their certification/first delivery in early 1988, with another 5,501 on firm order (as of May 2017).
While Boeing ramp-up 737 monthly production from 47 in 2017 to 57 in 2019 and Airbus from 46 to 60, both consider accelerating further despite supplier strain.
In November 2017, for its chief Willie Walsh, International Airlines Group budget carrier Level benefits more from its two A330-200 lower cost of ownership than its 6t higher fuel burn ($3,500) on a Barcelona-Los Angeles flight: it will introduce three more as there aren't enough B787 pilots. In early 2018, of the 2673 twin-aisle orders, Boeing had 1603 (60%) and Airbus 1070 (40%).
Airbus A380 vs Boeing 747
During the 1990s both companies researched the feasibility of a passenger aircraft larger than the Boeing 747, which was then the largest airliner in operation. Airbus subsequently launched a full-length double-deck aircraft, the A380, a decade later while Boeing decided the project would not be commercially viable and developed the third generation 747, Boeing 747-8,instead. The Airbus A380 and the Boeing 747-8 are therefore placed in direct competition on long-haul routes.
Rival performance claims by Airbus and Boeing appear to be contradictory, their methodologies unclear and neither are validated by a third party source. Boeing claims the 747-8I to be over 10% lighter per seat and have 11% less fuel consumption per passenger, with a trip-cost reduction of 21% and a seat-mile cost reduction of more than 6%, compared to the A380. The 747-8F's empty weight is expected to be 80 tonnes (88 tons) lighter and 24% lower fuel burnt per ton with 21% lower trip costs and 23% lower ton-mile costs than the A380F. On the other hand, Airbus claims the A380 to have 8% less fuel consumption per passenger than the 747-8I and in 2007 Singapore Airlines CEO Chew Choong Seng stated the A380 was performing better than both the airline and Airbus had anticipated, burning 20% less fuel per passenger than the airline's 747-400 fleet. Emirates' Tim Clark also claims that the A380 is more fuel economic at Mach 0.86 than at 0.83. One independent, industry analysis shows fuel consumption in litres per seat per 100 kilometres flown (L/seat/100 km) as 3.27 for the A380 and 3.35 for the B747-8I, or a fuel cost per seat mile of $0.055 and $0.057 respectively.[dubious– discuss] A possible, as yet uncommitted, re-engined A380neo is expected to achieve 2.82 or 2.65 L/seat/100 km depending on the options taken.
Airbus emphasises the longer range of the A380 while using up to 17% shorter runways. The A380-800 has 478 square metres (5,145.1 sq ft) of cabin floor space, 49% more than the 747-8, while commentators noted the "downright eerie" lack of engine noise, with the A380 being 50% quieter than a 747-400 on takeoff. Airbus delivered the 100th A380 on 14 March 2013. From 2012, Airbus will offer, as an option, a variant with improved maximum take-off weight allowing for better payload/range performance. The precise increase in maximum take-off weight is still unknown. British Airways and Emirates will be the first customers to take this offer.
As of December 2015, Airbus has 319 orders for the passenger version of the A380 and is not currently offering the A380-800 freighter. Production of the A380F has been suspended until the A380 production lines have settled with no firm availability date. A number of original A380F orders were cancelled following delays to the A380 program in October 2006, notably FedEx and the United Parcel Service. Some A380 launch customers converted their A380F orders to the passenger version or switched to the 747-8F or 777F aircraft.
At Farnborough in July 2016, Airbus announced that in a "prudent, proactive step," starting in 2018 it expects to deliver 12 A380 aircraft per year, down from 27 deliveries in 2015. The firm also warned production might slip back into red ink on each aircraft produced at that time, though it anticipates production will remain in the black for 2016 and 2017. The firm expects that healthy demand for its other aircraft would allow it to avoid job losses from the cuts.
As of June 2014, Boeing has 51 orders for the 747-8I passenger version and 69 for the 747-8F freighter.
EADS/Northrop Grumman KC-45A vs Boeing KC-767
Main article: KC-X
The announcement in March 2008 that Boeing had lost a US$40 billion refuelling aircraft contract to Northrop Grumman and Airbus for the EADS/Northrop Grumman KC-45 with the United States Air Force drew angry protests in the United States Congress. Upon review of Boeing's protest, the Government Accountability Office ruled in favour of Boeing and ordered the USAF to recompete the contract. Later, the entire call for aircraft was rescheduled, then cancelled, with a new call decided upon in March 2010 as a fixed-price contract.
Boeing later won the contest against Airbus (Northrop having withdrawn) and US Aerospace/Antonov (disqualified), with a lower price, on February 24, 2011. The price was so low some in the media believe Boeing would take a loss on the deal; they also speculated that the company could perhaps break even with maintenance and spare parts contracts. In July 2011, it was revealed that projected development costs rose $1.4bn and will exceed the $4.9bn contract cap by $300m. For the first $1bn increase (from the award price to the cap), the U.S. government would be responsible for $600m under a 60/40 government/Boeing split. With Boeing being wholly responsible for the additional $300m ceiling breach, Boeing would be responsible for a total of $700m of the additional cost.[clarification needed]
Neither Boeing nor Airbus is directly present in the regional jet market. However, in October 2017 Airbus took a 50.01% stake in Bombardier's Cseries programme, while in December 2017 Boeing confirmed that it was holding discussions with Embraer, whose E-Jet E2 range directly competes with the Cseries.
Modes of competition
Because many of the world's airlines are wholly or partially government owned, aircraft procurement decisions are often taken according to political criteria in addition to commercial ones. Boeing and Airbus seek to exploit this by subcontracting production of aircraft components or assemblies to manufacturers in countries of strategic importance in order to gain a competitive advantage overall.
For example, Boeing has maintained longstanding relationships since 1974 with Japanese suppliers including Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Kawasaki Heavy Industries by which these companies have had increasing involvement on successive Boeing jet programs, a process which has helped Boeing achieve almost total dominance of the Japanese market for commercial jets. Outsourcing was extended on the 787 to the extent that Boeing's own involvement was reduced to little more than project management, design, assembly and test operation, outsourcing most of the actual manufacturing all around the world. Boeing has since stated that it "outsourced too much" and that future airplane projects will depend far more on its own engineering and production personnel.
Partly because of its origins as a consortium of European companies, Airbus has had fewer opportunities to outsource significant parts of its production beyond its own European plants. However, in 2009 Airbus opened an assembly plant in Tianjin, China for production of its A320 series airliners.
Airbus sought to compete with the well-established Boeing in the 1970s through its introduction of advanced technology. For example, the A300 made the most extensive use of composite materials yet seen in an aircraft of that era, and by automating the flight engineer's functions, was the first widebody jet to have a two-man flight crew. In the 1980s Airbus was the first to introduce digital fly-by-wire controls into an airliner (the A320).
With Airbus now an established competitor to Boeing, both companies use advanced technology to seek performance advantages in their products. Many of these improvements are about weight reduction and fuel efficiency. For example, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner is the first large airliner to use 50% composites for its construction. The Airbus A350 XWB features 53% composites.
Provision of engine choices
The competitive strength in the market of any airliner is considerably influenced by the choice of engine available. In general, airlines prefer to have a choice of at least two engines from the major manufacturers General Electric, Rolls-Royce and Pratt & Whitney. However, engine manufacturers prefer to be single source, and often succeed in striking commercial deals with Boeing and Airbus to achieve this.
Several notable aircraft have only provided a single engine offering: the Boeing 737-300 series onwards (CFM56), the Airbus A340-500 & 600 (Rolls-Royce Trent 500), the Airbus A350 XWB (Rolls-Royce Trent XWB), the Boeing 747-8 (GEnx-2B67), and the Boeing 777-300ER/200LR/F (General Electric GE90). However, the Airbus A380 has a choice of either the Engine Alliance GP7000 or the Rolls-Royce Trent 900, while the Boeing 787 Dreamliner can be fitted with the General Electric GEnx or the Rolls-Royce Trent 1000.
As of the late 2000s, there appears to be a polarizing of both the engine suppliers as well as the airline manufacturers, such as Boeing and General Electric partnering for the upcoming Boeing 777X, and Airbus working closely with Rolls Royce for the Airbus A350-1000.
Currency and exchange rates
Boeing's production costs are mostly in United States dollars, whereas Airbus's production costs are mostly in Euro. When the dollar appreciates against the euro the cost of producing a Boeing aircraft rises relatively to the cost of producing an Airbus aircraft, and conversely when the dollar falls relative to the euro it is an advantage for Boeing. There are also possible currency risks and benefits involved in the way aircraft are sold. Boeing typically prices its aircraft only in dollars, while Airbus, although pricing most aircraft sales in dollars, has been known to be more flexible and has priced some aircraft sales in Asia and the Middle East in multiple currencies. Depending on currency fluctuations between the acceptance of the order and the delivery of the aircraft this can result in an extra profit or extra expense—or, if Airbus has purchased insurance against such fluctuations, an additional cost regardless.
Safety and quality
Both aircraft manufacturers have good safety records on recently manufactured aircraft and generally, both firms have a positive reputation of delivering well-engineered and high-quality products. By convention, both companies tend to avoid safety comparisons when selling their aircraft to airlines or comparisons on product quality. Most aircraft dominating the companies' current sales, the Boeing 737-NG and Airbus A320 families and both companies' wide-body offerings, have good safety records. Older model aircraft such as the Boeing 707, Boeing 727, Boeing 737-100/-200, Boeing 747-100/SP/200/300, Airbus A300, and Airbus A310, which were respectively first flown during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, have had higher rates of fatal accidents. According to Airbus's John Leahy, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner battery problems will not cause customers to switch airplane suppliers.
Airbus and Boeing publish list prices for their aircraft but the actual prices charged to airlines vary; they can be difficult to determine and tend to be much lower than the list prices. Both manufacturers are engaged in a price competition to defend their market share.
The actual transaction prices may be as much as 63% less than the list prices, as reported in 2012 in the Wall Street Journal, giving some examples from the Flight International subsidiary Ascend:
In May 2013, Forbes magazine reported that the Boeing 787 offered at $225 million was selling at an average of $116m, a 48% discount.
For Ascend's Les Weal, Launch customers obtain good prices on heavier aircraft, Lessors are large buyers and benefit too, like airlines as Singapore Airlines or Cathay Pacific since their name gives credibility to a program. In its annual report, Air France cites a €149 million ($195 million) A380, a 52% cut, while in an October 2011 financial release Doric Nimrod Air notes a $234 million for its A380 leased to Emirates. Teal group's Richard Aboulafia notes that Boeing's pricing power for the 777-300ER was better when it was alone in its long-haul, large capacity twinjet market but this advantage dissipates with the A350-1000 coming.
For Leeham's Scott Hamilton, small orders are content with 35-40% discount but large airlines sometimes attain 60% and customers with old ties with Boeing like American, Delta or Southwest get a Most-Favoured-Customer Clause guaranteeing them no other customer gets a lower price. Wells Fargo indicates Southwest, the largest 737 customer with 577, got a unit price of $34,7 million for its 737 MAX order of 150 in December 2011, a 64 % discount. Ryanair got 53 % in September 2001 and claims to obtain at least the same on its last 175 orders. The Airbus-Boeing WTO proceedings indicates EasyJet got a $19,4 million unit price on its A319 order for 120 in 2002, a 56% discount at the time, the same kind of rebate Lion Air got for its A320 order of 234 on 18 March 2013.
Each sale include an escalation rate covering the workforce and raw material costs increases and as acquisition cost represents 15% of the 20 year total cost of ownership, discussions also include the delivery date, fuel consumption guarantees, financial incentives, maintenance and training. At Airbus, final price in large campaigns is validated by a committee comprising sales head John Leahy, program director Tom Williams, financial principal Harald Wilhelm and CEO Fabrice Brégier who has the final cut.
Those discounts were presented again in Le Nouvel Observateur's Challenges.fr again with Ascend valuations in 2013:
In 2014, Airways news indicated discounted list prices for long haul liners :
On 24 December 2014, Transasia Airways announced a commitment to four A330-800neos, list price $241.7m, for $480m or $120m each. At the end of 2015, the sale and leaseback of new Airbus A350-900 from GECAS to Finnair value them at €132.5M ($144M)
In order to close the production gap between the B777 classic and the new 777X, Boeing is challenged by a $120m market price for the -300ERs. Competitive pressure from the Bombardier CSeries and E-Jet E2 lead Boeing to pursue the development of the 737 MAX-7 despite low sales, and to sell the Boeing 737-700 at $22m to United Airlines, 27% of the 2015 list price and well below what Embraer or Bombardier could offer for their aircraft.
Moody’s Investors Service estimates Delta Air Lines paid $40 million each for its 37 A321ceo order on 29 April 2016, an "end-of-the-line model pricing" of 35% of the $114.9 million list price. Likewise, Air Caraïbes subsidiary French Blue received its A330-300 for $100 million in September 2016.
|Aircraft||List ($m)||Mkt Value ($m)||Discount||Seats||Mkt/Seat|
This appears in the manufacturer's accounting: in their annual reports, Boeing values its 5,700 airliners order book at $416 billion using the contractual prices while Airbus has a backlog of 6,900 worth €1,010 ($1,200) billion at catalog prices, but when updating to more stringent IFRS-15 rules, Credit Suisse estimates it will be revised to €500 billion from 945.
In January 2018, Airbus and Boeing raised their list prices by 2% and 4%, further obscuring pricing transparency as discount levels will rise and with the growing importance of aftermarket services, following the Power by the Hour engine maker model.
In February 2018, Hawaiian Airlines cancelled its order for six Airbus A330-800s to replace them with Boeing 787-9s priced less than $100-115m, close to their production cost of $80-90m, while their normal sales price is around $125m.
Effect of competition on product plans
The A320 has been selected by 222 operators (Dec. 2008), among these several low-cost operators, gaining ground against the previously well established 737 in this sector; it has also been selected as a replacement for 727s and aging 737s by many full-service airlines such as Star Alliance members United Airlines, Air Canada and Lufthansa. After dominating the very large aircraft market for four decades, the Boeing 747 now faces a challenge from the A380. In response, Boeing now offer the stretched and updated 747-8, with greater capacity, fuel efficiency, and longer range. Frequent delays to the Airbus A380 program caused several customers to consider cancelling their orders in favour of the refreshed 747-8. However, all orders for the A380F freight variant have been cancelled. To date, Boeing has secured orders for 78 747-8F and 51 747-8I aircraft with first deliveries originally scheduled for 2011 and 2012 as the 747-8I is only in service with Lufthansa, while Airbus has orders for 318 A380s, the first of which entered service in 2007 and has delivered a total of 152 to customers (as of December 31, 2014).
Several Boeing projects were pursued and then cancelled, for example the Sonic Cruiser. Boeing's current platform for fleet rejuvenation is the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which uses technology from the Sonic Cruiser concept.
Boeing initially ruled out producing a re-engined version of its 737 to compete with the Airbus A320neo family launch planned for 2015, believing airlines would be looking towards the Boeing Y1 and a 30% fuel saving, instead of paying 10% more for fuel efficiency gains of only a few percent. Industry sources believe that the 737's design makes re-engining considerably more expensive for Boeing than it was for the Airbus A320. However, there did prove to be considerable demand. Southwest Airlines, who use the 737 for their entire fleet (680 in service or on order), said they were not prepared to wait 20 years or more for a new 737 model and threatened to convert to Airbus. Boeing eventually bowed to airline pressure and in 2011 approved the 737 MAX project, scheduled for first delivery in 2017.
Orders and deliveries
It took Boeing 42 years and 1 month to deliver its 10,000 7series aircraft (October 1958-November 2000) and, 42 years and 5 months for Airbus to achieve the same milestone (May 1974-October 2016). Boeing deliveries considerably exceeded that of Airbus throughout the 1980s. In the 1990s this lead narrowed significantly but Boeing remained ahead of Airbus. In the 2000s Airbus assumed the lead in narrow-body aircraft. By 2010 little difference remained between Airbus and Boeing in both the wide-body or narrow-body categories or the range on offer.
Airbus Orders & Deliveries to 31 December, 2017
Boeing orders to 31 December, 2017
Airbus Orders & Deliveries to 31 December, 2017
Boeing deliveries to 31 December, 2017
The former McDonnell DouglasMD-80, the MD-90 and the MD-11 are included in Boeing deliveries since MD's August 1997 merger with Boeing.
|Manufacturer||Class||Product||2017||Historical Deliveries *|
|* Historical deliveries are all jet airliners from Boeing since 1958 and Airbus since 1974 until 31 December 2017|
|Airliner||Europe||North America||Latin America & Caribbean||Asia Pacific||Middle East||Africa||Leasing Companies||VIP-Gov-Others||Total|
In the ever-present back-and-forth between Boeing and Airbus about the costs of the 747-8 vs. A380, each company claims its airplane has lower costs.
Boeing claims the 747-8 has double-digit lower costs, to which Airbus indignantly says Boeing–not to put too fine a point on it–is lying. Airbus is unusally blunt on this topic.
Well, two airlines weighed in within days of each other.
Emirates Airlines says the A380 has 16% lower costs than the 747-8, as reported in this article from Business Week. Emirates has ordered the A380 and the 747-8F.
Lufthansa, which has ordered both the A380 and 747-8, concludes the A380 burns less fuel per 100 passenger kilometers, though the figure is 3% lower on a litre-per-passenger kilometer basis.
Source: Lufthansa artwork
When Airbus and Boeing go at each other, we’re skeptical of the the information provide for the obvious reasons. When a third party, like an airline, especially one that has ordered both airplanes, comes up with answers, we are more impressed.
Here is what Airbus presented in May at its Innovation Days.
Boeing has in the past and continues to make its case the 747-8 has lower costs than the A380. Here is Boeing’s slide about fuel burn per seat:
Thus, we now have back-to-back Airbus and Boeing slides; a news report from Emirates; and Lufthansa’s own analysis.
We report. You decide. Or so they say.