Boeing scores widebody orders in February, MAX cancellations mount

(Reuters) – Boeing Co (BA.N) said on Wednesday it took in 18 new orders for widebody planes in February but saw more customers cancel orders of its grounded and previously best-selling 737 MAX jet, as it faced another blow to demand from the coronavirus outbreak.

The U.S. planemaker, which had failed to secure any order in January for the first time in decades, said some customers swapped 737 MAX orders in favor of more expensive wide-body planes.

Boeing had received 49 new orders in the first two months of 2019.

The company, struggling with a crisis that started a year ago following the second of two fatal crashes involving the 737 MAX, said it delivered just 30 planes to customers in the first two months, down from 95 a year ago.

The aviation industry is also facing fresh disruptions as the fast-spreading coronavirus outbreak cripples air travel, with airlines seeking to postpone aircraft deliveries and cash downpayments to Boeing and rival Airbus SE (AIR.PA).

U.S. airlines on Tuesday ditched 2020 forecasts and unveiled significant capacity cuts and cost-saving measures, with Chicago-based United Airlines (UAL.O) warning it could take 18 months for demand to recover.

Airbus failed to secure any new aircraft orders in February.

After an accounting adjustment representing jets ordered in previous years but now unlikely to be delivered, Boeing’s net total for orders in February sank to a negative 28 airplanes.

The orders included what Boeing called a “conversion” by Air Lease Corp (AL.N) of nine MAX orders into three 787s, reflecting greater demand from airlines for the wide-body 787.

Oman Air converted 10 737 MAXs into four 787s, while Boeing attributed one 767 for Fedex Corp (FDX.N) and 10 787s to “unidentified customers”.

Air Canada and Japan Investment Advisors canceled 11 and 10 MAXs planes, respectively, from the order book.

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