Boeing Co.’s 737 Max crisis came into sharp statisitical focus Tuesday when the planemaker reported that its commercial aircraft orders ended 2019 in the red.
Cancellations outstripped new orders over the course of the year, resulting in a negative net figure of 87, the company said on its website. A Boeing spokesman told CNBC that it was the first time that has happened in at least 30 years.
Only two Boeing jetliners registered a gain in orders in 2019: the 787 Dreamliner, with 74, and the 767, with 26.
The workhorse 737 accounted for 69 gross orders, which were offset by 183 cancellations. Some of the scrubbed deals were associated with a low-fare Vietnamese carrier that failed in 2019.
At the same time, demand for the 737 Max all but dried as 2019 came to a close. The once-hot-selling jet has been grounded since March following two fatal overseas crashes that killed 346 passengers and crew members.
The company has been working on safety changes to get the plane back in the air and to win back the trust of its customers, but it remains an open question as to when U.S. aviation regulators will recertify the Max.
The prolonged grounding was among the reasons Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg was fired in late December. He was replaced by longtime board member David Calhoun on Monday.
“Working together, we will strengthen our safety culture, improve transparency and rebuild trust with our customers, regulators, suppliers and the flying public,” Calhoun said in a written statement on his first day on the job. “With the strength of our team, I’m confident in the future of Boeing, including the 737 Max.”
The slide at Boeing was in contrast to its biggest rival: Airbus ended 2019 with 768 net commercial aircraft orders.
Boeing is one of the biggest employers in the Charleston region, where it builds the 787 Dreamliner and supports other commerical airplane programs, including the 737 Max.