A radical cut-back in airline spending has forced Boeing to lose more aircraft orders than it gained over the first quarter of this year.
Unveiling its first quarter results, the Seattle-based aerospace giant said that it received bookings for 28 aircraft but lost 32. Profits during the period halved to $610 million from $1.2 billion in the same period last year. Nevertheless Boeing still came in ahead of its arch rival Airbus, which sold 22 aircraft in the first quarter but lost 14 orders. Airbus took 777 orders last year, compared with Boeing’s 662, but the positions could be reversed on current form.
Boeing’s resilience compared to its European counterpart is largely due to an order this month for eight 787 Dreamlines by Gulf Air, worth an estimated $2bn at list prices.
The large number of cancellations experienced by both manufacturers is a direct repercussion of carriers cutting capacity and deferring new plane orders due to a slump in passenger demand.
Earlier this month Boeing issued a profits warning, saying the economic downturn had forced it to plan to cut production of its 777, and would depress its previously forecast delivery prices.
Chief executive Jim McNerney said he would consider cutting production further should economic conditions deteriorate further.
“The economic situation is uncertain,” he said. “We can’t predict with absolute certainty that our current rate in the market will hold forever. Adjusting production rates is part of this business. We think we’ve got it right now, [but] we’ll have to keep reading and reacting.”
He also said that the commercial aircraft market was facing “unprecedented challenges” but added, “We believe we are better positioned than most companies to withstand the ongoing pressures of this [economic downturn], and we are not hesitating to take necessary actions to preserve our financial strength and maintain our ability to invest and grow for the long term.”
The manufacturer is expected to update investors next week on its progress with the 787 Dreamliner, which is running two years behind schedule. It is expected to reveal that the carbon-fibre aircraft will have its first flight within the next two months.
Mr McNerney said: “Performance across the overwhelming majority of our programmes remains solid, and we are making progress towards our milestones on the 787 and other important programmes.”