2020 Was Boeing’s Worst Year On Record For Order Cancellations

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Boeing’s 2020 was not a year the company will remember fondly. The planemaker suffered its worst year on record for cancellations, despite securing a flurry of MAX orders in December. Overall, the company’s backlog has been reduced by a staggering 22% in just one year.

Boeing 737 Max Public Flights Resume As American Airlines Flies From Miami To New York
Cancellations, mainly for the MAX, saw Boeing’s backlog drop 22%. Photo: Getty Images

Just 157 aircraft delivered

2020 was a tough year for all in aviation, but for Boeing, the situation was doubly bad. With the 737 MAX remaining grounded for most of the year and demand for widebodies non-existent, Boeing buckled in for one heck of a bumpy ride.

The results, published this week, show just how tricky things have been. Over the whole year, just 157 aircraft were delivered, a drop of almost 60% from the 380 delivered in 2019. This represents around a third of the number of aircraft delivered by rival Airbus. These deliveries were broken down as follows:

  • 737 family: 43
  • 747 family: 5
  • 767 family: 30
  • 777 family: 26
  • 787 family: 53
Air Canada Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner C-FNOG
More Dreamliners were delivered than 737s. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | JFKJets.com

Chief Financial Officer Greg Smith commented on the situation, saying,

“Through the global pandemic, we took meaningful steps to adapt to our new market, transform our business and deliver for our commercial, defense, space and services customers in 2020.

“As we continue navigating through the pandemic, we’re working closely with our global customers and monitoring the slow international traffic recovery to align supply with market demand across our widebody programs. In 2021, we’ll continue taking the right actions to enhance our safety culture, preserve liquidity and transform our business for the future.”

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The company reported that it logged gross orders of 184 aircraft (including non-commercial) during 2020, the lowest since 1994. This included a flurry of orders for the 737 MAX secured in December, shortly after the FAA lifted the ban on its operation. 75 of these orders were part of a lifeline deal from European budget carrier Ryanair.

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Ryanair, Boeing 737 MAX, Passengers
Ryanair’s lifeline order gave Boeing a positive end to the year. Photo: Boeing

Backlog reduces by almost a quarter

A stark measure of Boeing’s disastrous year was the shrinking of its order backlog by a staggering 22%. In total, Boeing lost 655 aircraft orders, the bulk of which were for the 737 MAX at 641. As well as this, the planemaker removed some 555 aircraft from its order tally to take into account orders it did not expect to be fulfilled.

This leaves the planemaker with a backlog going into 2021 of 4,223 aircraft. These are broken down as follows:

  • 737 family: 3,321
  • 747 family: 8
  • 767 family: 75
  • 777 family: 350
  • 787 family: 469
United Boeing 787-10
Ongoing investigations into structural issues with the 787 further hampered Boeing’s orders and deliveries. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | JFKJets.com

The MAX hasn’t been Boeing’s only headache in 2020. The ongoing inspections of the widebody 787 Dreamliner fuselages is reflected in the lack of deliveries of the type at the end of the year. Nevertheless, Smith says the situation is progressing well, commenting,

“The resumption of 737 MAX deliveries in December was a key milestone as we strengthen safety and quality across our enterprise. We also continued comprehensive inspections of our 787 airplanes to ensure they meet our highest quality standards prior to delivery. While limiting our 787 deliveries for the quarter, these comprehensive inspections represent our focus on safety, quality and transparency, and we’re confident that we’re taking the right steps for our customers and for the long term health of the 787 program.”

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