- Boeing recorded a negative number of commercial airplane sales for 2019, its worst sales performance in at least 30 years.
- More orders were cancelled than were placed, bringing the plane-maker down 87 orders compared to the start of the year. Boeing’s deliveries were also down significantly.
- The ongoing Boeing 737 Max scandal was a major factor in the fallen orders and weak delivery totals.
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Boeing’s commercial airplane division lost orders over the course of 2019, recording a net negative order book for the first time in recent memory.
The negative orders starkly demonstrated the damage inflicted on Boeing by the ongoing 737 Max crisis, along with trade wars.
Boeing sales and delivery figures, published by the company on Tuesday, showed a loss of 87 commercial airplane orders compared to its order backlog at the end of 2018, a result of cancelled orders combined with sluggish new purchases.
Although orders have been gradually slowing across the aerospace industry, rival Airbus recorded 768 orders for the year, putting Boeing’s woes into even sharper contrast.
A Boeing spokesperson told CNBC that a net negative year “definitely has not happened in the last 30 years,” and could not recall whether it had ever happened before.
Boeing’s failure to secure orders left it in a weaker medium-term position than Airbus. The European plane-maker ended 2019 with an order backlog of 7,482 commercial planes, which ensures steady manufacturing and delivery for about 10 years. Boeing had 5,406 airplanes in its backlog.
The poor sales performance and decreased backlog could have major impacts reverberating across the manufacturing sector. Boeing is the largest exporter in the US, and has a robust global supply chain for aircraft components.
The 737 Max crisis was a major contributor to the net negative orders, with only 32 firm orders for the plane placed during year, which was outweighed by cancellations. The order book fell by 182 planes, largely due to low-cost Indian carrier Jet Airways going out of business.
Things were slightly more positive for Boeing’s larger wide-body planes, with a variety of orders placed for variants of its 787 Dreamliner. However, weaker demand than expected from Asian airlines, particularly amidst trade tensions, combined with reduced orders for its delayed 777X program, led to weaker overall performance.
The 737 Max has been grounded since March, 2019, following the second of two fatal crashes within a five month period. The latest generation of Boeing’s successful 737 series, the Max has been under intense scrutiny for a design that has been described as rushed, as Boeing’s processes and culture have been criticized as being more focused on short-term profits than safety and quality.
Getting the plane approved by regulators and back into the air is a priority for new Boeing CEO David Calhoun, who began in the role on Monday.
“We’ll get it done, and we’ll get it done right,” he said in an e-mail to employees that Boeing released on Monday.
Airbus recorded 654 orders for its A320 family of aircraft, the direct competitor to Boeing’s 737.
Boeing’s deliveries of existing orders also fell, partly because it has been unable to deliver completed but grounded 737 Max aircraft – nearly 400 of the planes are sitting idle at Boeing storage sites. It delivered 380 commercial planes in 2019, the lowest number since 2007. Airbus delivered a record 786 planes.