March 4, 2024

Several airplane seats and a hole where the emergency exit door was on a Boeing 737 Max 9.

There’s a door-shaped occlusion in Boeing’s crystal ball.
Photo: National Transportation Safety Board via Getty Images (Getty Images)

Things were going so well at Boeing just a few months ago. The company reported its full-year 2023 earnings Wednesday (Jan. 31), and there was a lot of good news: Revenue was up 17% to nearly $78 billion, and losses narrowed by more than half to just over $2 billion. The fourth quarter’s earnings were better than expected, and the stock briefly jumped 5% in early trading because of it.

But then—boom—the fuselage broke on an Alaska Airlines flight’s 737 Max 9 plane earlier this month, and the headaches started mounting. Once a key piece of the next-generation of Boeing planes, the plane’s brief departure from the skies has made it difficult to figure out what the future looks like.

CNBC reports that Boeing CEO David Calhoun told employees that “while we often use this time of year to share or update our financial and operational objectives, now is not the time for that.”

Trouble with its already-delivered planes also makes it hard to figure out how quickly Boeing will be able to build new ones. In October, the company suggested that it would be able to bump 737 Max output from the current 38 planes a month to 50 by 2025 or so. But now it’s just affirming its current rate of production. If things get too slow, that will only further complicate Calhoun’s efforts to make 2024 a banner year.

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