Airbus beats Boeing in plane delivery rate race in 2014.

Airbus clung to the top spot in commercial plane orders by confirming it outsold Boeing last year, while failing to close a gap in deliveries that leaves its US rival as the world’s largest plane manufacturer for the third year running.

The unexpected lead in aircraft orders, confirming a Reuters report last week, comes after an unprecedented surge that saw the planemaker book over 400 plane orders in December.

Airbus said that it won 1,456 net orders in 2014, down from 1,503 a year earlier but enough to pass Boeing’s total of 1,432. Gross orders totaled 1,796, against 1,550 for Boeing, giving Airbus a 54 per cent market share.

The Airbus Group unit delivered a company record of 629 aircraft in 2014, up slightly from 626 a year earlier but lagging behind Boeing’s industry high of 723.It aims to deliver slightly more aircraft this year, Airbus unit head Fabrice Bregier told a news conference.

[tbpspa]

Airbus shares, which in December suffered their worst ever one-day plunge in more than six years after the planemaker predicted flat profits in 2016, were up 0.3 per cent at 45.10 euros by 1101 GMT. The stock is up 9 per cent this month.

Total deliveries by the two plane giants rose 6 per cent to a record 1,352 aircraft, reflecting fleet renewals and the rapid growth of Asia as an aviation hub. But some analysts say demand may have peaked as plummeting oil prices – although good for most airlines – reveal broader economic concerns.

Deliveries of the A320 narrowbody jet family, which generates much of Airbus’s cash, slipped to 490 aircraft from 493 a year earlier but trumped deliveries of the Boeing 737 range, ending a deficit seen between January and November.

Airbus said net widebody orders totaled 135 in 2014, a 60 per cent fall on the previous year, and behind Boeing’s total of 328 for the year. Airbus was dealt a blow in June when Emirates canceled an order for 70 A350s.

Airbus delivered 30 A380 super jumbos, a model whose future direction has been left uncertain as the company tries to win sales.

“We are confident that the A380’s best days lie ahead,” Bregier said.

He added that while upgrades to the superjumbo such as new engines or a stretched version could be considered further down the line, the priority for now was to find customers for the current version.

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