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Is Boeing's Recovery Finally Here?

By Lou Whiteman - Updated Mar 9, 2021 at 1:15PM

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Monthly sales outpaced cancellations for the first time in more than a year.

New aircraft orders outpaced cancellations at Boeing (BA -3.76%) for the first time since November 2019, the clearest indication yet that the numerous headwinds the company has faced are finally beginning to abate.

Boeing sold 82 aircraft for the month while booking 51 cancellations, with the sales figure headlined by an order for 25 737 MAX jets from United Airlines Holdings. It also includes 14 other MAX jets for unnamed customers, and 27 KC-46 tankers for the U.S. Air Force.

A Boeing 737 MAX in flight.

Image source: Boeing.

The 737 MAX has been the cause of a lot of Boeing's issues in recent years. The plane was grounded in March 2019 after a pair of fatal accidents, and wasn't cleared to resume flying until last fall. During the grounding, Boeing also had to deal with a pandemic-related sales decline, causing the company to bleed through nearly $20 billion in cash in 2020.

The February sales figures suggest that the worst is finally over for Boeing, but the recovery will take time. It had more than 400 737 MAX planes that were built but not delivered at the time of the recertification, and likely is offering substantial discounts to secure orders and move that metal ahead of ramping up production.

Boeing must also deal with quality issues and falling demand for its larger, wide-body jets including the 777 and the 787 Dreamliner. In February, Singapore Airlines said it would defer about $3 billion in aircraft purchases, targeting mostly large airplanes.

With airlines expecting international travel to be slow to return post-pandemic, Boeing could find it difficult to sell those models in the years to come.

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