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Boeing deliveries slow to a trickle, while 737 Max cancellations grow

UPDATED: Tue., Aug. 11, 2020

A worker looks up underneath a Boeing 737 Max jet, in Renton, Wash., in December. Boeing on Tuesday reported more weak numbers for airplane orders and deliveries.  (Associated Press)
A worker looks up underneath a Boeing 737 Max jet, in Renton, Wash., in December. Boeing on Tuesday reported more weak numbers for airplane orders and deliveries. (Associated Press)
By Dominic Gates Seattle Times

SEATTLE – Boeing won no new airplanes orders in July while delivering just four commercial jets and wiping another 52 orders from the backlog for its grounded 737 Max.

When the manufacturer on Tuesday updated its orders and deliveries website, it revealed a continuation of the collapse of business since the coronavirus pandemic hit airlines in March.

With international air networks all but paralyzed and domestic routes at a fraction of normal passenger traffic despite a slight recovery, many Boeing airline customers have deferred existing deliveries into the future and avoided new orders.

Boeing’s four commercial airplane deliveries in July were all out of its Everett widebody jet plant: a 767 freighter for FedEx, a 777 freighter for DHL, and two 787-9 passenger jets, one for Air France and one for Turkish Airlines.

Rival planemaker Airbus won four new orders in July and delivered 49 airplanes: two small A220s and 47 A320neos. It delivered no widebody jets, meant for long-haul international flying, which is the most severely hit sector of the business.

For Boeing’s troubled 737 Max program, cancellations are mounting in addition to deferrals.

Customers last month canceled 43 Maxes outright. An additional nine Maxes were removed from the official backlog because the customer situation meant the contracts were no longer deemed solid enough to meet U.S. accounting standards.

This month, the Federal Aviation Administration issued its proposed plan for Max design changes and updates to pilot procedures that could see the plane ungrounded by late October and potentially flying passengers again in the U.S. by year-end. But the pandemic has left airlines struggling for cash and reluctant to take delivery of new airplanes when there is little demand. In that situation, large airplane lessors in particular have taken the opportunity afforded by the delivery delays to cancel large slices of their Max contracts.

In July, Irish lessor Aercap canceled 15 Maxes, Kuwaiti lessor Alafco canceled 20 and Chinese-owned lessor Avalon canceled two. In addition, Canada Jetlines, a proposed low-cost carrier that has never taken off, canceled five Maxes and an unidentified customer canceled a contract for one private business jet version of the Max.

So far this year, the firm Max backlog has shrunk by 864 aircraft: a total of 416 Maxes have been outright canceled and an additional 448 removed from the backlog as no longer certain.

As of the end of July, the firm backlog for the 737 Max models stands at slightly over 3,500 airplanes, Boeing’s data shows. Airbus cites the order backlog for its rival A320neo family of jets at just over 6,000 airplanes.

Boeing’s total order tally for the year, net of formal cancellations and removals due to failure to meet accounting standards, now stands at negative 836 airplanes and its firm order backlog at 4,496 airplanes.

Airbus at the end of July held net orders, after cancellations, of 302 aircraft for the year and its total backlog was 7,539 airplanes.

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