Boeing shut out of plane market as 737 Max grounding bites

Rival Airbus had its best January in 15 years

Boeing was shut out of commercial plane sales in January for the first time in 58 years, sending shares lower.

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The Chicago-based planemaker received zero orders during the month as it grappled with fallout from the grounding and production freeze of its best-selling 737 Max aircraft. A year earlier, when the airplane was still flying, Boeing won 45 orders, eight of which were for the 737 Max.

Last week, Airbus -- Boeing's European rival in a global duopoly -- reported 274 net orders, making for its best January in 15 years, according to Reuters.

TickerSecurityLastChangeChange %
BABOEING COMPANY287.76-17.83-5.83%

Boeing’s slow start comes after losing 87 more orders for commercial jets than it won in 2019, ceding ground to Airbus. It still has more than 5,300 total orders outstanding.

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Returning the 737 Max to commercial service is a priority for CEO David Calhoun, who took the reins at Boeing in the middle of January, following the December resignation of his predecessor, Dennis Muilenberg.

The Max was grounded in March 2019 after two crashes that investigators linked to new anti-stall software killed 346 people. The company froze production of the single-aisle jetliner in January after building more than 400 that it couldn't deliver until the grounding is lifted.

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Regulators are still evaluating a patch developed to address the issue, and the plane won't return to service until June or July at the earliest, Boeing said.

"When we finally make the decision to return this aircraft to service, it will be the most scrutinized aircraft in history,” Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Steve Dickson said via the agency's Twitter account. “I am not going to sign off on this aircraft until I fly it myself.”

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Boeing shares have climbed 5.8 percent this year, outperforming the S&P 500's 4.1 percent gain.