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Boeing is said to consider further cut in 787 Dreamliner production as demand slumps

Boeing 787 under construction.
Boeing 787s under construction in North Charleston, S.C., in 2018.
(Luc Olinga / AFP/Getty Images)

Boeing Co. is considering another cut in production of its marquee 787 Dreamliner jet as the aerospace giant contends with sluggish demand, people familiar with the matter said.

Executives are studying whether to trim monthly output by two planes, to 10 a month, from an already reduced pace that was announced in October, the people said. Although no final decision has been made, a new production schedule for the twin-aisle jet could be announced as early as next week when the company reports earnings.

Boeing is grappling with slowing sales for wide-body aircraft in a market glutted with used models. The manufacturer has struggled to persuade airlines to accelerate deliveries to fill empty production slots, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private.

Slowing output of the carbon-composite Dreamliner, with a list price that starts at about $250 million, comes as Boeing attempts to recover from a global grounding of the 737 Max after two fatal crashes. The 787 accounted for about 40% of Boeing’s jetliner deliveries in 2019 as the company was barred most of the year from shipping the bestselling Max.

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“We maintain a disciplined rate-management process, taking into account a host of risks and opportunities,” Boeing spokesman Chaz Bickers said when asked about a possible output cut for the Dreamliner. “We will continue to assess the demand environment and make adjustments as appropriate in the future.”

Boeing’s stock price rose 1.7% to $323.12 on Friday. It is down 10% over the last 12 months.

The Chicago-based company has gotten more bad news into the open under new Chief Executive David Calhoun, who took the reins this month. Boeing has already pushed back the projected return of the Max to midyear and is expected to report a multibillion-dollar accounting charge for compensating airlines that didn’t receive planes on order.

A nascent thaw in trade tensions between the U.S. and China could weigh against reducing output of the Dreamliner, which can seat as many as 336 passengers. In a trade pact announced last week, China agreed to purchase almost $80 billion in U.S. goods including aircraft through next year.

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“I would expect a rate reduction sooner rather than later, with one caveat,” John Plueger, CEO of Air Lease Corp., predicted earlier this month. “If Boeing had any suspended 787 deals which get reactivated quickly, then that might modify their rate decision.” He said he had no particular knowledge of Boeing’s plans.

In October, Boeing executives cited an extended drought in orders from China when they said the company would slow production to 12 Dreamliners a month by late this year from the peak rate of 14.

The effect on cash flow of any new cut in Dreamliner production could take years to materialize.


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