London — Airbus managed to expand deliveries to its airline customers last month, even as the coronavirus pandemic weighed on travel demand, people familiar with the matter said.

The tally for July handovers exceeded the 36 recorded in June, and was boosted by a system that delegates some essential customer checks to the manufacturer’s own engineers, according to the people, who asked not to be named discussing data that’s due to be made public later in the day. Deliveries may have reached the low 40s, one of them said.

Airbus declined to comment on the July report, while acknowledging that shipments are being bolstered by the e-delivery option. The process “continues to facilitate our ability to deliver aircraft during an unprecedented time of travel restrictions and quarantines”, said Stefan Schaffrath, an Airbus spokesperson.

Maintaining jetliner handovers to those customers that still want them is vital for Airbus as it seeks to bolster cash flow, since the biggest payment for planes comes only when the buyer receives them. The France-based company had 145 aircraft undelivered as of June 30.

Jefferies International analyst Sandy Morris said the shipment of 40 A320-series jets would be a positive sign, bringing handovers into line with Airbus’s reduced monthly production rate. The company delivered 31 of the narrow-body planes in June.

The European manufacturer racked up 196 deliveries across its model range in the first half compared to 70 at Boeing, which had to contend with the continued grounding of its 737 MAX after two fatal crashes, even before the impact of the virus was felt. The US company will report July figures on Tuesday.

Airbus CFO Dominik Asam said on an earnings call last week that deliveries should align with production this quarter. The company is set to build 51 aircraft a month based on current levels of output, including A320s, the smaller A220 narrow-body, and larger twin-aisle models.

Both Airbus and Boeing are in a delicate balancing act brought on by the pandemic, in which they’re looking to exert pressure on carriers to take planes ordered in better times while also remaining mindful of the continued viability of their customers.

Still, Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury struck an optimistic note at the July 30 earnings, raising the prospect of a ramp-up in A320-family production as soon as the second half of next year.


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