Boeing’s jet deliveries slide as 737 Max grounding takes a toll

Boeing 737 Max airplanes are stored near Boeing Field in Seattle. The planes have been grounded since March.
(Stephen Brashear / Getty Images)

Boeing Co.’s second-quarter jet deliveries slid 54% from a year earlier to 90 aircraft, reflecting the toll from a global grounding of its bestselling 737 Max after two fatal crashes. At the same time, deliveries for Airbus SE surged, giving the archrival a strong chance to wrestle back the crown of world’s biggest planemaker in 2019.

Boeing hasn’t delivered any Max aircraft, the company’s largest source of profit, since regulators banned commercial flights on March 13, days after an Ethiopian Airlines jet plunged into a field shortly after takeoff. Boeing did deliver 24 of an earlier 737 model during the quarter, along with 42 of its 787 Dreamliner.

Boeing’s commercial aircraft sales have also slowed after the tragedies and amid heightened U.S.-China trade tensions and economic uncertainty. The Chicago-based manufacturer is down 119 for the year with the 737 shedding 180 orders because of cancellations, conversions and an accounting rule.


The results trailed Airbus, which signed contracts for 145 planes in June. That put Airbus’ first-half total into positive territory at 88, as cancellations had previously outweighed new sales.

The tallies are closely watched by investors and analysts trying to assess the financial fallout of the Max crisis for Boeing ahead of its July 24 earnings release. While customer payments have slowed, Boeing is still building 737s at a 42-jet monthly clip and stockpiling completed airplanes around the Seattle area and as far afield as San Antonio.

The growing inventory costs of the undelivered planes are draining about $3 billion a quarter from Boeing, estimated Cai von Rumohr, an analyst with Cowen & Co., in a July 8 report. Cash generated from 787 Dreamliner deliveries, defense and services sales should soften some of the blow, he said.

The company’s backlog of unfilled 737 orders, after an accounting adjustment, fell by 10 aircraft to 4,415 from May’s results, according to Boeing’s website.

Boeing shares rose 0.6% to $353.09 on Tuesday. Boeing is up 8% so far this year, compared with 46% for Airbus.

Toulouse, France-based Airbus booked a slew of jetliner deals from last month’s Paris Air Show, dragging the company out of one of the thinnest sales periods in its recent history.

Airbus’ Paris total was boosted by the launch of an extra-long-range variant of its A321 narrow-body jet, which accumulated 44 firm orders, excluding conversions from other models.

Airbus’ June bookings included 30 A320neo-family jets from an order made by Saudi Arabian Airlines. The planes are destined for its discount subsidiary, Flyadeal, which walked away from a tentative commitment to take as many as 50 of Boeing’s Max jets.

If Airbus overtakes Boeing, it would be the first time in seven years. Boeing held on to the title by just six jets in 2018 after both companies kept their factories running through the year-end holidays.