Frustration Mounts at United and Alaska Airlines over Boeing’s Manufacturing Problems


In a rare and strong display of criticism, the leaders of United Airlines and Alaska Airlines voiced their frustration with Boeing over ongoing manufacturing problems that have resulted in the grounding of more than 140 planes. The CEOs of both airlines took the opportunity to express their concerns during a meeting on Tuesday, with United’s CEO, Scott Kirby, stating that his company may consider alternatives to purchasing a future, larger version of the Boeing 737 Max.

United Airlines, which currently has 79 Max 9s grounded due to safety concerns, announced on Monday that it expects to face financial losses in the first three months of the year as a result of the grounding. Kirby expressed his disappointment in the continuous manufacturing challenges faced by Boeing and emphasized the need for the company to take real action to restore its previous reputation for quality.

The backlash from airline executives comes in the wake of an incident on January 5 when a door plug blew off an Alaska Boeing 737 Max 9 jetliner at an altitude of 16,000 feet, causing a significant hole to appear on the side of the plane. Following the incident, U.S. regulators immediately grounded most Max 9s, and investigations are currently underway to determine whether missing or damaged bolts contributed to the panel detachment.

This is not the first time Boeing has faced manufacturing flaws that have resulted in delays and disruptions. Over the past few years, production issues have caused delays in the delivery of both Max jets and the larger Boeing 787 model. United, for instance, received 24 fewer Boeing planes than expected last year.

United has a standing order for Max 10 jets, a larger version of the Max line. However, the certification process for the Max 10, as well as the smaller Max 7, has faced significant delays from the Federal Aviation Administration. With the grounding of the Max 9 jets, Boeing’s efforts to obtain approval for the new models are further complicated.

Kirby revealed that the Max 10 is at least five years behind schedule and may face further delays. As a result, United is considering revising its plan to exclude the Max 10 from its fleet and explore other options. While Kirby did not specify which planes United may pursue instead, he mentioned that the airline would engage in discussions with Boeing. He also acknowledged that Airbus, Boeing’s European rival, is the only other global manufacturer of such large planes.

The decision to forgo the Max 10 will likely impact United’s growth plans and hinder the airline’s expansion. Similarly, Alaska Airlines, which currently has 59 Max 9s, had intended to order Max 10s but may reconsider its options. While no definitive decisions have been made, Alaska Airlines executives stated that they would prioritize long-term fleet mix optimization.

Stan Deal, the CEO of Boeing’s commercial airplanes division, issued an apology for the grounding of the Max 9 planes and pledged that the company is implementing necessary changes to address the ongoing manufacturing problems.


  1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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