Boeing 737 Max cancellations pile up in bleak start to the year

Key Points
  • Boeing reported more cancellations than orders in February as customers opted out of 737 Max planes.
  • The numbers point to a bleak start to the year for the aircraft manufacturer.
  • The planes have been grounded worldwide for nearly a year after two fatal crashes.
Boeing 737 MAX airplanes are parked at Grant County International Airport October 23, 2019 in Moses Lake, Washington.
David Ryder | Getty Images

Boeing reported Wednesday that it logged more commercial aircraft cancellations than new orders in February, marking a bleak start to the year for the manufacturer already reeling from two fatal crashes of its bestselling plane.

Boeing said Air Canada canceled 11 Max aircraft while some other customers converted orders for larger planes. For example, aircraft leasing firm Air Lease converted nine Max planes into three 787s. Oman Air converted 10 Maxes into four 787s.

The cancellations tipped Boeing's monthly orders into negative territory, the company said. The Chicago-based manufacturer logged 18 gross orders last month — its first orders of the year — but it also posted 46 cancellations, bringing its total net sales activity for the year to 28 cancellations.

A year ago, governments around the world grounded the Boeing 737 Max after two fatal crashes of nearly new planes within five months of one another. Together, the two crashes killed all 346 people aboard the flights and set off a crisis within Boeing.

Orders were halted after the second crash in March 2019, and Boeing suspended production of the Max jetliners in January. The company is sticking with its estimate that it expects regulators to lift a ban on the planes midyear.

Boeing is now facing a fresh challenge with the spread of the coronavirus, which is roiling the airline industry. Bookings are cratering and airline chiefs this week warned it could worsen before it improves, as travelers opt to stay home and large companies call off business trips.

The company is now drawing down a more than $13 billion loan it secured in January earlier than expected to shore up funds amid coronavirus-led market volatility, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Boeing shares were down nearly 14% at $199 in midafternoon trading, the lowest price since July 2017. The drop was shaving more than 200 points off the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

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