A recent announcement by Airbus stated that the aircraft manufacturer delivered just 556 commercial aircraft in 2020 – that’s 34% fewer aircraft than in 2019.

Inevitably, the impact of COVID-19 took a significant toll on planned deliveries, but Airbus said that the lower figure was in line with what it called an ‘adaptation plan’ set in place soon after the COVID crisis took hold. Airbus received new orders for 383 aircraft last year and registered a net order count of 268 after a number of operators cancelled their orders.

The current star of the Airbus family, the A220, saw deliveries drop from 48 to 38 in 2020 while A320-family deliveries dropped from 642 to 446 and A330 orders fell from 53 to just 19. The larger models within the Airbus fleet faired little better.

In an effort to continue supplying aircraft, last year Airbus adopted an e-delivery system that allows customers to take aircraft while reducing the need for acceptance teams to travel. A number of aircraft manufacturers have introduced this process to keep revenue coming in and completed airframes going out. Airbus said that e-deliveries accounted for 25% of all aircraft shipments across its commercial catalogue in 2020.

“Working hand-in-hand with our customers allowed us to navigate a difficult year,” said Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury. “The Airbus teams, customers and suppliers truly pulled together in the face of adversity to deliver this result. We also thank our partners and governments for their strong support to the sector. Based on our 2020 deliveries, we are cautiously optimistic as we look into 2021, although challenges and uncertainties remain high in the short term.”

It’s clear that Airbus along with other aircraft manufacturers will have to continue to adapt the way it supplies its aircraft to customers, but at least it has adapted despite the technical challenges. For all manufacturers, as they enter 2021, it is still clear that they must constantly revise and adapt their ways of doing business.