Over 55 years of history, the Boeing 737 jetliner has become the best-selling airplane of all time.
But the crisis that’s grounded the latest generation of the plane, the 737 Max, has cost the plane its crown.
Through the end of October, Boeing had recorded 15,136 orders for 737 models, including all generations of the plane. Airbus, however, noted 15,193 orders for its competitor, the A320 family.
Airbus has been closing the gap between its plane and Boeing’s for the past few years, particularly as Airbus introduced its newest version, the A320neo, before Boeing was ready with its 737 Max. However, the A320 was still more than 400 orders behind the 737 at the end of 2018.
The crisis that has grounded the 737 Max is a major contributor, as Boeing has failed to book a meaningful order for the 737 Max since April, a month after the grounding began.
Airbus began taking orders for the A320 in 1984, almost 20 years after the 737 was introduced. Boeing has still delivered more 737s than Airbus has delivered A320s, and will likely hold on to this record for years. Particularly as the 737 Max grounding is lifted and Boeing resumes deliveries, the company is expected to have a record delivery year in 2020, according to AirInsight.
But Airbus’ order ledger will likely stay ahead of Boeing’s for the foreseeable future, as the A320 family continues to see strong sales.
By the second day of the Dubai Air Show, Airbus recorded 120 firm orders for A320 variants from UAE-based Air Arabia, including 20 long-range versions of the A321. Boeing recorded its second sale since the grounding began with 10 new 737 Max orders from leisure airline SunExpress.
At the larger Paris Air Show in June, Airbus booked orders for 273 A320neo jets, from about a dozen customers, while Boeing sold 200 737 Maxs to European airline conglomerate IAG in a surprise deal.
With the 737 Max expected to resume deliveries next month, and to receive final certification to resume commercial service by January, it’s likely that orders of the jet — especially from airlines with large fleets over older 737s — will ramp up.
However, Airbus’ continuing strong sales, along with its June introduction of the A321XLR long-range variant — a challenge to Boeing’s not-yet-completed NMA, or “new midsize aircraft,” a category above the 737 — means it’s unlikely that the 737 will surpass the A320 anytime soon.
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