Boeing Orders Nearly Frozen In Wake Of Alaska Air Incident

An unpainted Boeing 737-8 MAX parked at Renton Municipal Airport adjacent to Boeing’s factory. The company had its worst month for orders in January since the height of the pandemic. (Jason Redmond/AFP/Getty Images)

By Chris Isidore, CNN

New York (CNN) — Boeing, hit by quality concerns following the incident with a door plug blowout on an Alaska Airlines flight early last month, reported that January was its worst month for new airplane orders since the height of the pandemic.

The company announced Tuesday that it booked orders for only three jets, all 737 Max planes, to an unidentified customer. But it also had three 737 Max orders canceled, adding up to zero net orders for the period.

The company last had three or fewer gross orders in June, 2020, when it had only one jet order. The last time that Boeing had zero or negative net orders was in January of 2021, when it had negative 1 net orders.

The pandemic caused a temporary near halt in air travel and massive losses throughout the airline industry, which choked off demand for new jet orders. Boeing orders in the period were also hurt by a 20-month grounding of the 737 Max, its best selling model, following two fatal crashes of the jet that killed 346 people in late 2018 and early 2019.

The very bad month for orders at Boeing followed 369 total net orders in December, a record month for the company, and a sign that its airline customers had recovered from the pandemic and were eager to add new aircraft to their fleets. That month capped the best year for orders for Boeing since before the 2019 grounding.

The National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the Alaska Air flight, said four bolts needed to hold the door plug in place were missing from the aircraft that was delivered by Boeing to Alaska just this past October. While the NTSB has not identified who was responsible for the missing bolts, Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun told investors earlier this month that no matter its findings, “We caused the problem.

Earlier this month United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby said the company is no longer counting on getting any of the 737 Max 10 models it has ordered in the foreseeable future. He described the Alaska Air incident as the “straw that broke the camel’s back,” in terms of its plans to take delivery of the new, longer Max model. And Southwest Airlines, another major Boeing customer, said it is no longer counting on deliveries it had planned for later this year of the 737 Max 7.

Both models have yet to be certified to carry passengers by the Federal Aviation Administration, a process that could now be delayed by the Alaska Air incident. Uncertainty over that process, and a desire to see how the investigation by NTSB unfolds, could be among the reasons Boeing’s orders came to a screeching halt in the month.

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