Last week, Boeing announced that it is halting production of the 737 Max in January. Over the past few months, it has become clear that the plane still has a number of regulatory hurdles to clear before it is allowed back into the skies. Boeing has not indicated when it will resume production.
Adding to Boeing’s woes, United Airlines has pulled the Boeing 737 Max from its flight schedule through June. And, supplier Spirit AeroSystems, which manufactures fuselages for Boeing, announced that it will end Max-related deliveries.
Those decisions could have a real impact on when the 737 Max gets back into the air. According to one aircraft industry analyst, many suppliers could be put in a tight spot by Boeing’s problems.
“If they’re not building, how do they get paid? And if they don’t get paid, how do they pay their workers? How do they remain in place?” he said, referring to the trickle-down effect of the production halt. If Boeing’s suppliers lose part of their skilled workforce, it could increase the delays and problems when the 737 Max is eventually put back into production.
Flights are being canceled due to the missing Max
United told reporters that it plans to have to cancel thousands of flights over the coming months because of the grounding of the 737 Max. The airline currently has 14 of the aircraft but was expected to buy 30 by now. United says that it is swapping in other planes and using spares to minimize disruptions, but that it would still have to cancel about 75 flights per day in December and 56 flights per day in January.
Southwest Airlines has also pulled the 737 Max from its schedule, and American Airlines has said that it also expects to do so. According to the Associated Press, Southwest has been hit the hardest by the grounding of the 737 Max because it was counting on the plane to update its aging fleet. It already owns 34 Max planes and was expecting further deliveries this year.
In addition, other airlines have stopped expanding and adding routes due to the grounding of the Max.
The fuselage manufacturer, Spirit AeroSystems, says that revenue from 737 Max components makes up more than half of its total annual revenue. Spirit AeroSystems employs some 13,500 people and is the largest job provider in Wichita, Kansas’s largest city.
The FAA says that its recertification process for the 737 Max should be completed by the end of the month. However, that doesn’t translate directly into the plane being allowed back into the skies. It is unclear exactly what steps Boeing will have to take to achieve that.