Airbus deliveries seen accelerating in March

PARIS, April 7 (Reuters) - Europe’s Airbus accelerated jet deliveries in March, putting it within reach of matching or even eclipsing last year’s first-quarter total, which was only partially affected by the coronavirus crisis, tracking estimates showed on Wednesday.

The planemaker delivered 122 aircraft in the first three months of 2020, with deliveries coming almost to a halt after France and other nations imposed health lockdowns in mid-March.

Airbus declined to comment on this year’s performance.

It is expected to update delivery data on Thursday, ahead of quarterly earnings on April 29. Any final delivery data is subject to last-minute changes due to internal auditing.

After a slow start to the year, Airbus delivered 53 jets in the first two months of 2021 and then accelerated sharply in March, according to industry sources and unofficial estimates.

The Hamburg-based Airbus Finkenwerder News blog, which closely monitors deliveries for the best-selling A320 family, said March deliveries more than doubled to 44 compared to January. Airbus says it is producing 40 such planes a month.

Airbus also delivers smaller A220 jets and larger A330 and A350 aircraft. Some large jets are still going into storage because of a slump in international demand, while narrow-body flying is picking up quickly in markets such as the United States and China.

“Airbus is delivering well,” an airline source said.

For the full year, Airbus has said it plans to repeat the 566 deliveries seen in 2020.

Rival Boeing delivered 157 jets in 2020, hit by the almost two-year grounding of its 737 MAX and production problems on the 787 Dreamliner. It delivered 48 commercial aircraft in the first two months of this year.

Both companies have been forced to lay off thousands of workers by a drop in demand since a 2019 delivery peak. (Reporting by Tim Hepher; editing by Barbara Lewis)