Airbus to be world’s largest planemaker for second year

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FILE PHOTO: Airbus logo at the entrance of the Airbus facility in Bouguenais

By Tim Hepher

PARIS (Reuters) – Airbus is set to beat Boeing to be the world’s largest jetmaker for the second year in a row, ending 2020 by resuming deliveries of its A380 superjumbo to Emirates, though its final deliveries are likely to have dropped 35% from 2019 due to the pandemic.

There were no immediate reports on Tuesday of deliveries or production being disrupted by travel bans imposed by many countries on Britain, where Airbus makes wings.

No flights have been scheduled over the Christmas break of special Beluga transport planes, which carry aircraft sections under an exemption from most coronavirus travel restrictions.

Barring widespread new travel upheaval, industry sources expect Airbus to deliver 550-560 planes in 2020 after it reached more than 520 this week, with nine days of the year still to go.

But they cautioned deliveries are subject to an unusual number of variables and schedules are not set in stone. Airbus is unlikely to repeat a record surge of more than 100 deliveries in December last year.

An Airbus spokesman declined to comment on specifics, but said Airbus continued to operate normally.

“We continue to deliver at full steam and this will continue over the holidays,” he said.

Airbus said on Monday it had delivered an A330neo to Uganda Airlines, though fresh doubts have surfaced over similar jets already built for troubled AirAsia X.

After a year-long pause in A380 deliveries to Dubai, Airbus has delivered two A380s to Emirates this month, tracking data shows. It will end the year with three A380 deliveries after Japan’s ANA put a newly delivered plane into storage in October.

Airbus has halted initial assembly of the four-engined jet and has six left to deliver. Charter firm HiFly last week ended efforts to make profits out of a second-hand aircraft, meaning more A380s are seen likely to follow the ANA jet into storage.

Total Airbus deliveries are expected to fall 35% this year due to the impact on airlines of the pandemic, but Airbus has an insurmountable lead over Boeing, which delivered 118 planes up to the end of November, with the 737 MAX grounded during that period.

Between January and November, Airbus delivered 477 jets.

It has delivered 46 of its main category of planes so far in December, according to the Airbus Hamburg Finkenwerder tracking website, lifting total deliveries so far this year beyond 520.

Industry sources say Airbus may reach an informal goal of 560 deliveries in 2020, though each delivery comes with uncertainty and some experts say 550 is a safer estimate.

Deliveries have outperformed earlier expectations after deals with cash-strapped airlines.

(Reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by Mark Potter)

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