Boeing orders come up short despite 737 MAX’s return to the skies

The market for new planes remains depressed by the coronavirus pandemic, which has caused airlines to reconsider their aircraft purchases.

Boeing finished 2020 with 157 deliveries, down from 380 deliveries in 2019 [File: Ted S. Warren/AP Photo]

Boeing Co got a bump in orders and deliveries of new planes in December, but it wasn’t enough to salvage a poor year for the big aircraft maker.

Chicago-based Boeing still reported more cancellations than new orders for its 737 MAX jet, which was grounded for 21 months after crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia killed 346 people.

The market for new planes remains depressed by the coronavirus pandemic, which has devastated air travel and caused airlines to reconsider aircraft purchases. Despite the December numbers, Boeing’s full-year numbers for 2020 still declined from 2019.

Boeing finished 2020 with 157 deliveries, including planes handed over to cargo airlines and military customers. That was down from 380 deliveries in 2019. European rival Airbus finished the year with 566 deliveries.

Deliveries are crucial because aircraft makers get much of their cash when planes are delivered. Short on cash during the MAX grounding, Boeing has borrowed billions and cut thousands of jobs to reduce costs.

The November decision by the United States’ Federal Aviation Administration to approve changes to a flight-control system on the MAX allowed Boeing to resume shipping previously built MAX planes to airline customers. Boeing delivered 39 planes in December, including 28 MAX aircraft, of which 10 went to American Airlines and eight to United Airlines.

Boeing reported 90 new orders in December. The bulk, 75, came in a single previously announced order by Irish discount airline Ryanair. The total included cargo carrier DHL’s order for eight Boeing 777 freighters, which was announced Tuesday.

However, Boeing also reported cancelled orders for 105 MAX planes, all but five by leasing companies that fear it will be difficult to find operators to take the planes.

The totals don’t include Alaska Airlines’ decision to buy 23 more MAX jets. That deal was announced last month but will be reported with January orders, a Boeing spokesman said.

For 2020, orders fell to 184 from 246 in 2019.

Airbus reported 383 orders in 2020.

Boeing said it has a backlog of nearly 3,300 unfilled orders for the MAX and about 4,200 for all planes, including cargo freighters.

Source: AP