On Monday, Boeing announced plans to halt the production of their 737 MAX aircraft starting in January of 2020, as the FAA continues to recertify each aircraft and deem them safe for flight. The Boeing 737 MAX has been grounded since March of this year, following two fatal crashes that occurred five months apart, resulting in the combined deaths of 346 people. However, according to Boeing’s statement, since the grounding the company had not halted the production of new airplanes, with 4,500 orders on the backlog and 400 new airplanes now in storage waiting for approval from the FAA — a process that is reportedly taking much longer than Boeing had anticipated. The New York Times reports that the decision is a result of the company failing to convince global regulators that the planes were now safe to fly.
In an interview with CNBC last week, Federal Aviation Administrator Stephen Dickson indicated that recertification would be a lengthier process than Boeing might expect, “We’re going to do it diligently because safety is absolutely our priority with this airplane… I’ve made it very clear Boeing’s plan is not the FAA’s plan.” The grounding of the 737 MAX has cost Boeing $8 billion and has resulted in thousands of canceled flights as it is one of the aviation world’s biggest carriers. According to the Washington Post, Southwest Airlines alone, which has a fleet of 34 MAX 737s, has lost $43 million due to canceled flights in relation to the plane’s grounding.
In the statement, Boeing indicates that despite the halt in production and the billions of dollars lost, employees will not be laid off or furloughed, writing:
“During this time, it is our plan that affected employees will continue 737-related work, or be temporarily assigned to other teams in Puget Sound. As we have throughout the 737 MAX grounding, we will keep our customers, employees, and supply chain top of mind as we continue to assess appropriate actions. This will include efforts to sustain the gains in production system and supply chain quality and health made over the last many months.”
Boeing now plans to prioritize the delivery of stored aircraft unrelated to the 737 while they reevaluate production schedules for 2020.