Boeing posts $8.4 billion loss on weaker demand for planes

Boeing is reporting another huge loss, this one because of a setback to its 777X widebody jetliner.  PHOTO CREDIT: Ted S. Warren

Boeing lost $8.4 billion in the fourth quarter on weaker demand for planes during the pandemic and another setback to a new large plane designed for long-haul flights.

In the past two years, Boeing has posted huge losses mostly because of the crisis around two deadly crashes involving its 737 Max. However, the biggest piece of the fourth-quarter loss reported today was a pretax charge of $6.5 billion tied to a different plane, the bigger 777X.

Revenue fell 15% to $15.3 billion, as the Chicago company delivered fewer planes to airline customers.

Orders for new Boeing jets have tanked in the past two years, first from the worldwide grounding of the Max after two crashes that killed 346 people, then from a pandemic that devastated the airline industry. In the last few months, production flaws have halted deliveries of a larger plane, the 787, which Boeing calls the Dreamliner.

Boeing delivered 59 commercial planes in the fourth quarter, compared with 225 for European rival Airbus.

Boeing’s newest problem involves the 777X, a larger version of the long-range 777 that will feature new engines and composite wings that fold near the wingtips to accommodate the space at airport gates.

The company said the first 777X delivery will occur in late 2023, a year later than previously planned. Boeing cited new, tougher standards for certifying planes — an outgrowth of the Max crisis — and the damage that the pandemic is doing to demand for international travel.

The 737 Max, a mid-size plane used mostly on short and medium-range flights, only recently returned to flying after being grounded worldwide for 20 months. Five carriers including American Airlines have resumed using the Max and have flown more than 2,700 flights since early December.

This month, Boeing avoided criminal prosecution over the Max by agreeing to pay $2.5 billion and admit that two former employees misled regulators about the plane’s safety. Family members of passengers who died complained about the settlement, most of which Boeing had already set aside to pay airlines.

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