EVERETT — The Boeing Co. booked a big flurry of last-minute orders. But it was not enough to defy expectations that the annual tally would fall for a third year in a row.
The late additions put Boeing in a position to pass rival Airbus Group in new orders, something it has not done since 2012. Airbus is expected to post its annual tally later this month.
Boeing booked 668 new orders in 2016. Most of those — 550 — are for its popular single-aisle 737. It delivered 748 commercial airplanes last year.
The 11th hour orders include 75 737s for GE Capital Aviation Services, a deal that was announced Wednesday. They also include another 189 737s for unidentified customers.
The boost continues the trend of declining airplane orders in recent years, as airlines pause following a roughly decade-long spending spree.
Demand especially has dropped most for bigger, twin-aisle airplanes. The biggest jetliners, Boeing’s iconic 747 and Airbus’ mammoth A380, have collected paltry few orders in recent years. Boeing received orders for 18 747s, the most since 2007. Company executives indicated that they were considering closing the airplane line. However, the new orders gave the 747 program a stay of execution.
Through the end of November, Airbus had booked 600 orders, including 509 for its single-aisle A320 family.
Deferrals, too, are on the rise as more airlines delay deliveries due to revenue concerns and persistently cheap oil prices. There were 251 delivery delays in 2016, the most since 2001, according to Flight Fleets Analyzer data compiled by Bloomberg Intelligence.
Last month, Delta Air Lines cancelled orders for 18 787 Dreamliners, orders it inherited from its 2008 merger with Northwest Airlines. Earlier in 2016, Delta pushed back delivery of four Airbus A350s from 2018 to as late as 2020. American Airlines Group also delayed delivery of 22 A350s by an average of 26 months.
Competition is picking up, as well. Bombardier beat Boeing this year when it won an order from Delta for 75 of its new C Series airplanes. Both Bombardier in Canada and Embraer in Brazil are trying to break into the narrow-body airplane market.