Aviation

Boeing to end 747 production and warns of job cuts

Boeing has said it will stop making its classic 747 plane and is eyeing steeper job cuts than those it has previously announced.

The firm is also planning to slow production of many of its jets, including the troubled 737 Max.

The changes come as the firm disclosed a $2.4bn (£1.8bn) loss as the virus depressed demand for air travel.

“The reality is the pandemic’s impact on the aviation sector continues to be severe,” said Boeing boss Dave Calhoun.

Airlines around the world have responded to the coronavirus pandemic by reducing their fleets and delaying or cancelling aircraft orders.

This month British Airways became the latest to say it was retiring all of its 747 jets – about 10% of its fleet – citing the fall in passenger demand. Australian airline Qantas has also retired the jet, which marked its 50th anniversary last year.

Boeing said the slowdown may mean deeper job cuts on top of roughly 16,000 layoffs – around 10% of its workforce – it has already planned.

“Our government services, defence and space programs provide some critical stability for us in the near-term as we take tough but necessary steps to adapt for new market realities,” Mr Calhoun said.

“We are taking the right action to ensure we’re well positioned for the future.”

The pandemic has exacerbated the crisis facing Boeing, which was already in trouble following two fatal crashes of its 737 Max plane which killed 346 people.

The jet has been grounded since last March, costing the company some $20bn. The scandal led to the departure of top executives and a string of ongoing investigations.

Boeing said it has re-started production of the 737, but it expects the rate of manufacturing to remain low for the foreseeable future as the virus weighs on the industry.

It said it hoped to be making 31 per month by the beginning of 2022 – instead of during 2021 as planned. That would be roughly half the rate of the firm’s production before the grounding.

Qantas retired its Boeing 747 jets last week
Qantas retired its Boeing 747 jets last week

“While there have been some encouraging signs, we estimate it will take around three years to return to 2019 passenger levels,” Boeing said.

Falling sales

Boeing said it lost $2.4bn in the three months to 30 June, as sales fell 25% to $11.8bn.

Last year, it reported a $2.9bn loss in the same quarter, driven by a charge of more than $5bn related to the grounding of the 737 Max.

The sales decline was driven by its commercial unit, which serves passenger airlines. Revenue dropped 65% as the firm delivered just 20 planes in the quarter, compared to 90 a year ago.

Sales in the firm’s defence, space and security unit were essentially flat at $6.5bn.