After an already slow 2015 in terms of commercial jet sales, 2016 did not bring the aircraft manufacturers any improvement in new order volumes. However, Airbus and Boeing still enjoyed record backlogs as a result of the order boom in 2013/2014. Last year the order intake was limited to ca. 2,100 (including ca. 230 type swaps) – a 40% drop compared to the record year 2014. Demand for new jets in 2016 did not benefit from the stimulating effect of aircraft launches, and the so-called book-to-bill-ratio dropped to just under 100%. At the end of 2016, the backlog for western-built commercial jets stood at ca. 13,700, virtually unchanged from a year earlier.
While it looks like this may be a sign that the commercial jet market is in a downturn, we do not believe this to be the case. The current order backlog still equals almost 57% of the current in-service fleet, or almost nine years of production (at 2016 production levels). New deliveries achieved a fresh record level during 2016, especially in the fourth quarter. Despite problems with third-party suppliers, the aircraft manufacturers delivered 1,579 new jets. Depending on demand, the manufacturers fine-tune production rates of individual types.
Once more, the Airbus A320 was the most popular aircraft family last year, with a gross order intake of 601 for the new A320neo family and 189 for the current A320ceo family. After cancellations, the net order intake was 561 neos and 46 ceos. Airbus noted a clear shift towards the higher capacity A321 version of their single-aisle range. The Boeing 737 family followed with 550 orders of which 534 were for the new MAX and only 16 orders for the current B737NG. Boeing still lacks a direct competitor to the A321. Together the A320 and B737 families represented 77% of all new jet orders placed in 2016.
In the smaller single-aisle segment, Canadian manufacturer Bombardier had a relatively successful year for its new CSeries, reporting a total of 129 gross orders for the type. Mitsubishi’s MRJ programme suffered further delays resulting in only ten additional orders. Embraer reportedly sold 50 E-Jets of which only five from the new E2 series.
In the medium twin-aisle segment, the Airbus A330 family clocked up 106 gross orders (83 net). The new A330-900 booked 42 net sales, but the old technology -200 and -300 still added 14 and 27 net orders, respectively. The all new, long-range Airbus A350 booked a gross total of 51 orders, but cancellations for mainly the shortbody -800 version (-8) reduced the net total to 41. In the same twin-aisle segment, Boeing sold 80 more of their 787’s, but 22 cancellation reduced the net total to 58. Larger aircraft were not in fashion in 2016. Boeing booked 23 gross orders for the current generation 777 (net 17) but none for the new 777X. Freighter sales kept the 747-8 programme going, but net total sales only reached 17. Airbus booked two new orders for the A380, but lost two as well.