Boeing production problem spills over into summer travel

FILE - In this Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020, file photo, a Boeing 737 Max jet, piloted by Federal Aviation Administration Chief Steve Dickson, prepares to land at Boeing Field following a test flight in Seattle. Boeing said Thursday, April 13, 2023 that production and delivery of a “significant number” of its 737 Max planes could be delayed because of questions about a supplier’s work on the fuselages. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

FILE - In this Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020, file photo, a Boeing 737 Max jet, piloted by Federal Aviation Administration Chief Steve Dickson, prepares to land at Boeing Field following a test flight in Seattle. Boeing said Thursday, April 13, 2023 that production and delivery of a “significant number” of its 737 Max planes could be delayed because of questions about a supplier’s work on the fuselages. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

Boeing’s latest setback with production issues means airlines will have fewer planes than they expected to handle big crowds of travelers this summer.

CEO David Calhoun said Tuesday that inspections and repairs related to unapproved fuselage parts will prevent the company from delivering dozens of 737 Max jetliners to airlines in time for the summer season. But it won’t affect plans to increase the production rate for the best-selling plane, he said.

Calhoun said during Boeing’s annual shareholder meeting that delivery delays will remove about 9,000 seats from airline schedules this summer.

The CEO didn’t give the number of planes used in that calculation, but the number of seats typically in a mid-sized Max suggests that about 50 planes are expected to be delivered late.

The situation is reminiscent of last year, when production flaws stopped Boeing from delivering bigger 787 planes, and airlines dropped some flights and routes.

Boeing hopes to boost production of the Max, which was halted in late 2019 after two of the planes were involved in crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia that killed a total of 346 people. Production has not yet returned to pre-crash rates.

Boeing disclosed last week that subcontractor Spirit AeroSystems used a “non-standard manufacturing process” on fittings where the tail is attached to the fuselage of most models of Max jets built since 2019. Boeing said then that the issue could cause delays in production and deliveries of a “significant number” of the planes.

Calhoun repeated the company’s position that the fittings do not present a safety issue for planes already carrying passengers. The Federal Aviation Administration has not ordered airlines to do anything with those jets.

Boeing said preliminary results showed that its shareholders elected the 13 board nominees put forward by the company, which lost $5 billion last year and nearly $22 billion since the start of 2019.

Shareholders asked when the company might restore a dividend, which was suspended in early 2020. Calhoun and Chairman Lawrence Kellner said they want to invest in the business and reduce debt before returning more money to shareholders.

Boeing shares gained 1.6% and Spirit AeroSystems rose 7.8% Tuesday.

Arlington, Virginia-based Boeing is scheduled to report first-quarter results April 26.