Airbus 2020, prudent navigation of a challenging environment

February 18, 2021, © Leeham News: Airbus presented its results for 2020 today. The company reported a net loss of €0.5bn at revenues of €50bn (€70.5bn 2019). Airbus’ operations delivered a result of +€1.7bn; it was then reduced to a loss by charges of €2.2bn for the year.

Airliner deliveries reduced by 34% to 566 for the year (863), with net orders at 268 aircraft (768). A forecast for 2021 was given as same-level deliveries with operating profit at +€2bn and break-even Free Cash Flow.

Group-level results

Revenue for 2020 was €49.9bn (€70.5bn 2019), operating profit was €1.7bn (called EBIT adjusted, €6.9bn 2019), and net profit was -€0.51bn (€1.34bn). The net profit included write-downs of €1.2bn COVID restructuring (-15.000 employees, now about 1/3 done), -€385m A380, and -€630m financial revaluations/misc. items.

Free cash flow for 2020 was -€6.9bn (€3.5bn), and the net cash position end 2020 was €4.1bn (€12.5bn). The gross liquidity available if needed is €21.4bn.

Airbus will not pay a dividend for 2020.

Guidance for 2021 is:

  • Airbus targets the same commercial aircraft deliveries as for 2020.
  • Airbus expects an EBIT Adjusted of €2 bn.
  • Break-even Free Cash Flow.
WTO dispute

Airbus CEO Guillame Faury sees a chance for a settlement of this decades-old feud as tariffs are now applied both ways between Europe and the US, a lose-lose situation that should force a solution.

Reintegration of Aerostructures in the group

Faury emphasized that advanced aerostructures will be a key technology for Airbus in the future. The integrated digital design and production of aerostructures call for tighter integration. This is good news for Premium Aerotec and Stelia as it means a closer relationship with Airbus with a possible reintegration on the cards.

Sustainable Air Transport

Faury answered a question from the media if Airbus is too aggressive with its research into hydrogen airliner with “We want to be the innovative OEM, innovating towards sustainable aviation. Look at the advantage we gained with Fly-By-Wire 30 years ago. Many said it was not needed, this innovation has benefited us all this time”.

Commercial aircraft

Of the 566 delivered aircraft, 446 were A320/A321. The future increase of A321 deliveries is not clear enough to restart the work on the A321 FAL in Toulouse.

The A220 represented 38 deliveries, with A330 at 19. The A350 holds a five-per-month rate with 59 units delivered last year. Finally, the A380 line delivered four aircraft.

Airbus says the market is too volatile to predict when the pickup in deliveries will happen. Demand will govern, and the airlines don’t have planning clarity with short-term changes in government travel regulations being on a weekly basis rather than longer-term.


The helicopter market has stabilized, and the division contributed €0.46bn to the group’s net profit.

Defense and Space

After years of declining orders, revenue and profits orders were up 39%, revenues flat, and profit +€0.4bn instead of a loss of €0.9bn 2019.

Deliveries of A440M were as planned at nine aircraft, with all customer nations now having A400M (Belgium was the last nation to take delivery in 2020).

72 Comments on “Airbus 2020, prudent navigation of a challenging environment

  1. A nett loss of €0.5b might look good from 40k ft, given the unprecedented pandemic & collapse of air travel, but there’s lots of drama behind it.

    -15.000 employees, now about 1/3 done. That’s a lot a families, drama and a significant dent to employee motivation / cohesion too. It sucks energy from an organization.

    French, German, Spanish, UK governments jumped in trying to preserve jobs, by supporting incomes. Without that, the picture would have looked differently.

    I think sales did a good job protecting the backlog by allowing customers flexibility, exempting them from pre-covid contractual obligations.

    They were lucky to have a updated portfolio, big backlog and no short term WS driven greed before this crisis. No reason to celebrate anything though..

    • Agreed a lot in play and all hands on deck to stabilize.

      They have done well in a really bad situation.

    • Airbus is lucky to have a CFO that thinks like a CFO and not like an investor relations person trying to tell Wall Street what it wants to hear. Such as doing dumb things like trying to sell the company headquarters.

  2. I hope both, Airbus and Boeing, will navigate these difficult times wisely, delight us with great engineering, and reemerge to shine again.

    • Airbus CEO Guillame Faury sees a chance for a settlement of this decades-old feud as tariffs are now applied both ways between Europe and the US, a loose-loose situation that should force a solution.

      • “…tariffs are now applied both ways between Europe and the US, a loose-loose situation that should force a solution.”

        Does appear to be loose – variable from viewpoint of outsiders, silly gyrations.

        Hopefully politicians and lobbyests like Boeing will move to win-win from lose-lose, but that may take time.

    • Bryce:

      You should tread carefully on that crash. This does have all the hall marks of a pilot caused crash. You know I hold Boeing Management in contempt but that does not mean they are wrong all the time.

      In the case of loss of control, it is indeed a pilot issue. Getting upside down over a miner issue is a complete breakdown in cockpit and is a pilot and only a pilot responsibility not to have it occur.

      Its pretty well impossible to convey what instrument flying entails , but while its very solid if done right, if you get disoriented and then do not stabilize via the instruments, you can be upside down and sideways and think you are level.

      I do have an Instrument raring, I was rated extremely highly on them (long story I won’t repeat but had to do with early training in boats)

      While under the hood was easy, flying in real weather where you could see nothing was a lot harder to regardless of what the instruments were telling you, you just knew you were turning or diving or ……

      Ironically if the aircraft is on auto pilot this does not occur.

      The L1011 crash into the Florida Swamps was a classic and it was not even loss of control, they simply flew into the ground trouble shooting a burned out light bulb.

        • Light Bulbs: you need _5_ to change them.
          ( 1 holding the bulb, 4 to turn the table the bulbholder stands on.)

    • Although the Indonesian report drew no conclusions and released no data, one major focus was upset and recovery training. Boeing is being prudent by reminding pilots of these aspects.

      Whether pilots contributed to the accident, is not determined by Boeing. We have to wait for further analysis, data and conclusions to be released by the investigators.

      • Although the Indonesian report drew preliminary conclusions and alluded to FDR data, one major focus was authothrottle malfunction. Boeing is being evasive by suggesting that pilots were inattentive.

        The notion that autothrottle malfunction may have triggered the accident, is not convenient to Boeing. We eagerly await further analysis, data and conclusions to be released by the investigators.

        • Bryce:

          Things fail. The issue is the failure its out of bounds and training per MCAS 1.0 or is this a burned out light bulb?

          I have not commented on this prior as it was too nebulous.

          But I believe what Boeing is getting is that they had a problem (burned out light bulb) and got distracted and disoriented in focusing on that and not flying)

          We will have to see but that is what its beginning to look like

          Keep in mind this is the most common cause of crashes and it has nothing to do with Boeing or Airbus.

          Boeing deserves all the legitimate beating they get.

          It can and has happened with Airbus as well.


    • One of these press releases designed to tilt the table without getting entangled in the “no independent information releases bypassing the prime investigator” requisite. 🙂

      Oh, well no surprises there. And no change to previous incidents/accidents.

      • Yea that is the point, no quality control.

        At some point the FAA has to stop 787 until the factory can meet the certification requirements of production per the Certificate standards.

        You don’t just get certified and go off the reservation, you have to maintain spec you agreed to and they surely are not.

        • This is actually a relatively minor problem. The decompression panels are secured by clips that are supposed to resist pressure differential up to the design release pressure. In some aircraft, the clips have released due to normal flight pressurization cycles.

          The AD is to inspect, and refasten/tighten the clips if a released panel is found, and now also to replace any panels that are torn or damaged by partial clip release. Boeing is developing a fix to ensure the panels cannot release prematurely.

          The same type system is the floor exhaust vents of the passenger cabin. Normally they allow free air circulation to the cargo area, but upon sudden decompression of either space, the clips release the panels to allow instant equalization, to prevent structural failure.

          After which, the panels need to be refastened or replaced, similar to the AD requirements. If they release prematurely, there is less isolation between the spaces and freer air circulation. This is a problem for the cargo halon systems which are designed to fill the specific volume between bulkheads.

          • Sure. Challenger also had a “relatively minor problem”: just a few O-rings that weren’t up to spec.

            Regulators don’t waste their time issuing ADs for “relatively minor problems”.

      • Hamburg’s museum of local history shows a beautiful range of little chests, finely carved by sailors using some nicely grained material.
        They are made from salt cured meat taken from ships provisioning resources.

    • Long time ago I read that Boeing QC staff took damaged parts out of the production process, but the next morning the damaged parts were missing and likely built into 787.
      Could be that Boeing is checking now to get the damaged parts out of 787.

      There are other QC concerns.
      It was reported that mice settled in grounded MAX. I never heard about that again.

      • Nothing would surprise me.

        I have seen it from just sloppy to deliberate.

  3. In a little bit of bad news, my guy up the road is telling me that it looks like Air Vanuatu is not going to be taking their two A220-300’s that they have on order. Apparently the hurricane (or cyclone/typhoon), probably along with Covid (and they recently had an earthquake) has really brought quite a bit of destruction to the island.

    Poor folks, never rains, but it pours…

  4. If you have access this is interesting in that the strategy back in 2009 mimics Boeing deciding they were just going to be an integrator and gave up the crown jewels of the wing production.

    Boeing did a U turn up the point of thinking they could make their own APU and have an avionics division to rival Collins etc.

    Somewhere there is a middle ground.

    • balance is everything.

      As direct part of Airbus Premium Aerotec would never have been selected to produce the rear pressure bulkhead for the 787.

      Boeing trashing common suppliers did invariably hurt Airbus too.

      What to make of GE buying up the company that does the GTF gearbox for P&W? apparently also creating problems for the TP400 engine gearbox in the process.

  5. IMU the processes at Airbus seem to go towards parametric design.

    i.e. you do not draw an item but describe the limitations and the design software creates the part. Change limits and the part changes. Not only for single items but for larger assemblies up to the whole plane.
    That obviously calls for closer operation and may also speak against sharing a supplier with the competition ( or exposing it to hostile takeover .

  6. Laugh or Cry Department-

    Nothing we can not do if only we can think to do it before they die

    “Within weeks of the Aireon system going live, its data was used by U.S. officials, before they’d entered into an agreement with the company, to justify grounding the Max after other nations had done so. The Ethiopian Airlines jet that crashed March 10, 2019, wasn’t tracked by local radar, but the Aireon system showed its flight path in detail.”

    “All Boeing Co. 737 Max flights around the world are being tracked by U.S. regulators who are keeping watch on the plane after its 20-month grounding.
    The Federal Aviation Administration is using a network of satellites capable of tracking planes in even the most remote regions as if they were under surveillance by local radars, according to the agency. The data is being provided by Virginia-based Aireon LLC, the FAA said in an emailed statement on Friday.
    Aireon, which reached an agreement in November to provide the FAA with expanded flight data, is tracking Max flights for unusual events, such as rapid descents, said Vincent Capezzuto, the company’s chief technology officer. The monitoring began Jan. 29, Capezzuto said during a Feb. 12 webinar hosted by Aviation Week.”

    • Unbelievable, and yet unsurprising: after all, Sully has said that the MAX is “not up to modern standards”.
      What an embarrassment for Boeing to have an entire fleet of a particular model subject to constant monitoring by a regulatory authority. That’s a first. It suggests that the FAA doesn’t have much faith in the aircraft…but nevertheless ungrounded it. And the public is supposed to find this agency credible?

      • FAA says this is a precaution to detect deviations from standard flight procedures. The satellite data doesn’t include operational data from the MAX, but does include flight path, as in altitude, heading, airspeed. So is basically monitoring the pilots, as well as the aircraft..

        Same basic data is publicly available from flight tracking web sites, but the source is satellite vs terrestrial receivers, so complete world coverage. It’s a good idea, it will help identify both aircraft problems and patterns of improper procedures.

        For example, it would have identified JT043 and possibly prevented JT610.

        • @Rob

          Sure – what a great technology – pity it was too late to save all those dead from BA’s dumb airplane

        • FAA evidently hopes that this will be a mechanism to try to prevent other crashes. The extensive “chaperoning” data includes flight path, altitude, heading, airspeed, etc. So is basically trying to monitor the well-documented tantrums of the aircraft.

          Same basic data is publicly available from flight tracking web sites, but the source is satellite vs terrestrial receivers, so complete world coverage. It’s embarrassing/shocking to think that this is needed to help identify more problems in this highly compromised aircraft.

          All necessitated by the previous disasters with the MAX.

          • This is an extension of the FAA partnership with Aireon, to develop satellite-based data for ATC, among other uses. Other partners are Airbus, and several world regulators.


            This capability will be available for all commercial aircraft in the near future. The MAX is a good choice as first trial. Airlines will use it eventually as well, to monitor for deviations from standard procedures, and follow up on them. Ultimately ii will enhance flight quality control.

            There is ongoing debate about whether pilots should be able to power down the new transponders, as occurred with MH370. Even if they do, that will now be flagged immediately, so better chance of tracking them with other means.

          • And yet, we don’t see any chaperoning of A320s or A220s using this technique. Hardly surprising, since those planes are not archaic, tantrum-prone relics from the 50s. It’s only the MAX that requires chaperoning, and even babysitter pilots.

          • All airlines will be doing this in future, as part of SMS. The MAX is just the first instance. Regulators will use the data as well, in this and additional ways.

            It’s a new capability that allows managers to observe flight performance in real-time. The benefit is to improve safety by identifying potential problems early, and then review with manufacturer, airline, and crew to avoid more serious incidents. That is the purpose of SMS.

          • Just call it FAA spin.

            Nothing will change until the house is cleaned.

          • Although other *airlines* may be doing this in future, as part of SMS, the MAX is now being required to do it by the *FAA*. The regulator needs this data as an embarrassing indication that the MAX just isn’t 100% trusted.

            It’s a necessary capability that allows the regulator to chaperone potential MAX tantrums in real-time. The idea is to try to improve the safety level of the MAX by identifying potential problems early, and then instruct Boeing to address them in order to avoid more crashes. That is the sad state of affairs with this plane.

          • There is no chaperone as no ability to intercede in real time. Rather to collect data and look for patterns or problems before they cause an incident.

          • There is strong chaperoning, as there will be constant monitoring and a daily report of irregularities. An embarrassing and shameful need to collect data and look for patterns/problems in this hapless plane. No other airplane or manufacturer has ever been chaperoned like this.

          • There’s a good analogy with Scott’s moderation of this forum. If he observes the development of poor behaviors, he works to improve them. Same basic idea.

            He also finds technical problems (although very few) through observation. But most here are behavioral.

          • Behavior is a recurrent problem with the tantrum-throwing MAX, whose erratic excursions from controllable flight have earned it a place in the history books as the second most lethal plane of modern times. It’s thus only fitting that the FAA is a using chaperoning service to try to catalog and correct the mis-steps of this plagued aircraft, which is “not up to modern standards”.

          • And all because Dickson was too lazy to check all documents.
            It’s the same with a lemon with partly mold, you throw the whole lemon away, but Dickson cut only the mold away. You can monitor the rest of the lemon as much as you want, a bad lemon won’t have better boeingitis.

          • Dickson is implementing SMS, in accordance with Congressional mandate. The MAX is the first but won’t be the last.

          • Dickson is chaperoning the MAX because he knows that a big headache will become even bigger if there’s another accident. He evidently still doesn’t trust the MAX, even though he re-certified it. Can you imagine what the Chinese think of all this? “American FAA using Baby Monitor service to check for tantrums of archaic aircraft”.

    • Indeed, Pedro!
      In any case, monitoring of the 787s would seem to be very prudent, in addition to the MAX.
      The older models are of a more acceptable standard — apart from the odd autothrottle malfunction.

      • The B777 has an incredible safety record. By any interpretation of the data, the hull losses can be attributed outside of design engineering or manufacturing. They buy the engines, and for the most part the GEs, RRs and PWs have been deemed successful. BTW, I think this was a PW.

        • @ sam
          I completely agree with your statement regarding the B777…but that was designed by the “old Boeing”, as were the B747 and B767.
          Anything that the “new Boeing” turns its hand to just seems to wither and turn to dust.

          • Bryce:

            I have to remind you the 737 was old Boeing design as well! Really old.

            Yes it was a PW engine.

            And Boeing does not drive the engine certification’s nor its maint aspects.

            Much like an International Truck with a Cummins engine.

            Deciding if you include more than one mfg is it, then its a whole different path that is parallel to the fuselage (odd way to think of it)

            That is truly scary failure. Both a containment failure and an ongoing fire.

          • All grounded – PW4000-powered 777s

            Time for UAL to accelerate its A350 delivery timetable!? Wink wink

  7. @ Gerrard
    Your first link has some interesting proposals, but I don’t think much will change in the short term. One could achieve much larger CO2 reductions by (for example) reducing single-occupant commutes in cars and improving thermal insulation in homes and other buildings. And, of course, the biggest contribution of all would come by taking serious steps to curb human population growth. But there’s also a different mechanism currently in evidence, which is in your second link.

    Your second link is treading on marshy ground, because it contains a realistic narrative that just doesn’t go down well with the optimistic fantasy that a lot of people subscribe to. For example, although the rollout in Isreal is a stellar achievement from a domestic point of view, there’s still the problem of how to open up borders without letting any nasty E484 mutants in (there are now 4 different variants with this). Hence the intensified interested in testing in the past few weeks…and the fact that Ben Gurion airport is going to remain closed for at least the next 2 weeks.
    The world is becoming a series of isolated islands, and it looks as if that will remain for a while.

    • @Bryce

      I thought the anti airtravel proposals (per se as per climate c) more or less typical of the populist – ruling class notions of how to use climate change : pick on a sector and demonise it at the expense of realistic action : airtravel fashion myanmar whatever suits the current fashion

      To provide entertainment to Puritans but not to implement any real change

      I take this as generic re insertion of climate change into a no travel quarantine at will semi permament covid no travel context – the climate change panick will feed off the covid panick, and stretch out to infinity or do I mean eternity

      Divide and rule, the BA board’s motto

  8. Emirates will resume daily services to Newark via Athens from 1st June 2021. The resumed flight will provide global travellers with another access point to the popular New York Metropolitan area. The addition of Newark via Athens will take Emirates’ US network to 10 destinations following the resumption of services to Seattle, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York JFK, Washington DC, Dallas and San Francisco (to resume on 2nd March).

    The Dubai-Athens-Newark flight will operate daily with a three-class Boeing 777-300ER, complementing Emirates’ double daily flights to New York (JFK) as the airline continues to expand across North America. Emirates will also increase its flights to the Greek capital, Athens, flying daily to support the newly resumed service.

  9. Bryce, the Challenger space shuttle disaster was declining launch temperatures in the face of known shortcomings of material of the O-rings, NASA taking them off the list of known problems given to crew because a fix had been committed never mind implementation was in the future, evasion of the FMEA, and evasion by Morton-Thiokol management.

    M-T management played collectivist by having a meeting of executives of who only one had a technical background, it was groupthink c/w irrelevant and ‘blue sky’ statements. So M-T advised NASA that it agreed with launching.

    ‘blue sky’ was engineer Roger Boisjoly’s term for statements that must have been pulled out of the air.

    The FMEA entries for O-rings were, in my words:
    – one o-ring fails but second holds, OK
    – second fails, LOSS OF MISSION, LOSS OF CREW

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