Airbus said Monday that it delivered 611 passenger jets in 2021, an 8% increase over 2020 but an indication that airlines are still cautious about adding new planes during a pandemic that has reduced travel worldwide.
More than three-quarters of last year's deliveries were for planes in Airbus' A320 family, which are mostly used for short and medium-length flights. Deliveries of wide-body, two-aisle planes continued to lag, reflecting the much slower recovery in international flights.
U.S. rival Boeing is scheduled to report 2021 deliveries and orders on Tuesday.
Airbus entered December with a large lead over Boeing in deliveries, as Boeing halted deliveries of its 787 jetliner because of production flaws and struggled to boost output of 737 Max jets. Boeing began December with more orders, but Airbus ended the year with a flurry of sales to make that a close race.
Airbus, based in Toulouse, France, said it took in a net of 507 orders last year after subtracting cancellations. Gross orders before cancellations were roughly double its year-earlier total.
Most were for planes in the A320neo group of single-aisle planes. The company said it ended last year with a backlog of 7,082 aircraft on order.
CEO Guillaume Faury said the orders indicated that airlines are confident about the growth of air travel after COVID-19. He said that "while uncertainties remain,” Airbus is on track to raise production rates through this year.
Faury said on a call with reporters that that omicron variant of COVID-19 has led to more employees missing work, but he said that it has not yet affected production or parts from suppliers.
Airbus suffered a blow last week when U.S. budget airline Allegiant, which currently has an all-Airbus fleet, ordered 50 Boeing Max jets and took options on 50 more. The airline cited uncertainty around availability of comparable A320neos or a larger version of Airbus' A220 jet.
Christian Scherer, chief commercial officer of Airbus, said Allegiant's decision “is a fact, and we acknowledge that,” but that the airline's comments won't cause Airbus to speed up a decision on whether to build a larger, stretch version of the A220.
Airbus will report 2021 financial results on Feb. 17.