In January, Boeing won no new airplane orders and delivered just 13 jets.
While January is typically a very slow month for both Airbus and Boeing as they take a breath after the always-frenetic pace of jet orders and deliveries at the end of the year, this opening month for 2020 — in the midst of the 737 Max crisis — is a new low.
Airbus by comparison had a big order month, winning net orders for 274 commercial aircraft. The European jetmaker also delivered 31 aircraft, a typically low January output, though it looks large compared to Boeing’s figure.
The Airbus sales tally included two big orders from the U.S.
Airbus won a net total of 117 orders for the A321neo in January.
Last year in January, Boeing won orders for 45 commercial jets. In the past 25 years, going back to the merger with McDonnell Douglas, Boeing has never had zero orders in January. Last year in January, Boeing delivered 46 commercial jets, including 34 of its 737s, two 767s, two 777s and eight 787 Dreamliners.
The parallel collapse in Boeing deliveries last month is entirely due to the grounding of the 737 Max. Boeing is barred from delivering that jet and by mid-month had suspended further production of the airplane.
Production to resume
Boeing will resume production of the 737 Max before the best-selling plane is allowed back in the air as the company attempts to recover from one of the worst crises in its 104-year history.
The Chicago-based manufacturer halted production in January, 10 months after the jet was grounded worldwide following two crashes that killed 346 people. Boeing failed to sell any commercial planes in January, the second month with no orders since the flying ban was imposed.
Boeing expects global regulators to start clearing the aircraft to fly in the middle of this year, though senior sales executive Ihssane Mounir said Wednesday at the Singapore Airshow that the timings of their decisions may be different.
The vice president of commercial marketing, Randy Tinseth, outlined the timetable to restart manufacturing and said any resumption would begin slowly.
The timing is a balancing act for Boeing. A prolonged suspension of manufacturing would put extra stress on jobs, supply chains and future airplane orders. At the same time, prematurely restarting production would only add to the 700 Max jets already on the tarmac, a backlog that Boeing says will take several quarters to clear.
Mounir said no customers were scrapping 737 Max fleet plans. Boeing is also in talks over widebody aircraft and expects to secure some orders soon, he said.
Spirit AeroSystems Holdings a maker of fuselage, engine pylons and wing components that depends on the Max for half of its sales, has slashed its dividend to preserve cash and laid off 2,800 employees.
Tinseth mapped out some of the other elements of Boeing’s plan to get the Max flying again. He reiterated the manufacturer will help train Max pilots on simulators as part of the compensation packages for airline customers.
While Boeing expects the Max to fly again mid-2020, regulators that are reviewing a fix to the jet’s flight-control software — implicated in both crashes — will have the final word. In Singapore on Tuesday, Federal Aviation Administration head Steve Dickson said there’s no schedule for the Max’s recertification flight.
The 737 is a workhorse for airlines globally plying short- to medium-haul routes on fast turnarounds. The importance of getting the Max back in the air was underscored by Boeing’s market forecast for Southeast Asia, a region it said will need 4,500 new aircraft worth $710 billion over the next two decades to meet demand from a growing middle class.