Boeing Warns of 737 MAX Delivery Delays & Summer Capacity Shortfalls
Boeing has warned that a production problem with some 737 MAX jets will affect the delivery of a "significant number" of planes and reduce the available seats for airlines this summer.
The issue involves two fittings in the aft fuselage section of certain 737 MAX aircraft that were installed using a "non-standard manufacturing process" by supplier Spirit AeroSystems, Boeing said in a statement.
The problem was discovered during routine inspections and is not a safety of flight concern, Boeing said. However, it will require additional inspections and repairs for some planes before they can be delivered to customers.
Boeing did not disclose how many planes are affected by the issue, but said it includes 737 MAX 7s, MAX 8s, high-seat-density MAX 8-200s and 737NG-based P-8 Poseidon military maritime patrol and surveillance jets. The company said it continues to deliver unaffected 737 MAX planes, such as MAX 9s.
The issue is another setback for Boeing, which has been struggling to recover from the grounding of the 737 MAX in March 2019 following two fatal crashes that killed 346 people. The plane was cleared to fly again by regulators in November 2020 after Boeing made changes required by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Boeing CEO David Calhoun addressed the issue during the company's annual shareholder meeting on Monday. He said the issue "removes approximately 9,000 seats from our customers' summer schedules, and we apologize to all of them."
He added that Boeing determined "very quickly exactly how many airplanes were affected" and is working "transparently and diligently" through the process. He did not say how long it will take to fix the problem or how it will impact Boeing's target to deliver 400-450 737 MAX planes this year.
The issue is also a headache for airlines that are eager to receive new planes to meet the rebound in air travel demand as travel restrictions ease. According to industry group Airlines for America, domestic air travel in the US is expected to grow by 25% this summer compared to last year, although still below pre-pandemic levels.
Some of the airlines that are likely to be affected by the delay include Southwest Airlines, which has ordered more than 200 737 MAX jets; United Airlines, which has ordered more than 150; and Ryanair, which has ordered more than 100 high-seat-density MAX 8-200s.
Southwest Airlines said it would work with Boeing on "any needed inspections or part replacements." United Airlines said it does not expect "any significant impact on our capacity plans for this summer or the rest of the year."
Boeing said it has not changed its planned production rate increases for the 737 MAX nor its scheduled acquisition of components from suppliers. The company said it remains confident in the quality and safety of the plane.