Number of Boeing 737 Max jets back in service tops 100

Airlines in Europe, the US and Brazil add more flights with the recertified aircraft

An American Airlines Boeing 737 Max aircraft taking  off on a test flight from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport

An American Airlines Boeing 737 Max aircraft taking off on a test flight from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport

 

The number of Boeing 737 Max jets back in service has now topped 100 as airlines in Europe, the US and Brazil add more flights with the recertified jet.

More than 1,300 flights were logged in the week through March 3rd, with American Airlines Group operating almost 400 flights, according to data from aviation analytics firm Cirium.

Brazilian carrier Gol Linhas Aereas Inteligentes, which was the first to restart services with the Max in December, had the highest utilisation with its eight aircraft flying almost 11 hours a day, Cirium said in a statement.

Regulators around the world have followed the US Federal Aviation Administration in clearing the Max to resume flying after two fatal crashes led to its grounding in March 2019.

China was the first country to impose a ban after the second crash killed 157 people in Ethiopia. The Asian country has yet to approve the jet’s return, with regulators saying that they still had safety concerns.

Boeing has also resumed Max deliveries after inventories built up during the suspension. United Airlines Holdings this week expanded an existing order by 25 planes.

Prior to the 2019 grounding, about 360 Max jets were in service around the world, according to Cirium.

Boeing leaders were stunned by a barrage of negative articles after a 737 Max plunged into the Java Sea in October 2018, killing all aboard, according to internal communications released this week.

The messages, unveiled Thursday under court order, show that executives and board directors worried about media coverage and indications that pilots on the Lion Air flight were caught unaware by an obscure flight-control system in the Max but not earlier 737 models. Lingering production snarls and the 737’s importance as Boeing’s biggest source of sales added to the tension.

“Press is terrible. Very tough. Lots of negative chatter I’m picking up. Not pleasant,” Ken Duberstein, at the time a veteran Boeing director, said in a November 14th missive to then chief executive Dennis Muilenburg.

Duberstein recommended that the company “address more aggressively” the emerging concerns about the Max, deliveries and Lion Air.

Credit facility

Also on Thursday it emerged that Boeing had approached a group of banks for a new $4 billion (€3.4bn) revolving credit facility, according to a person familiar with the matter, as the planemaker battles a prolonged slowdown in commercial air travel due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Investment-grade rated companies use revolving credit facilities as backstop financing, with these facilities remaining undrawn for the most part.

The US jet manufacturer has the option to raise the size of the two-year credit facility to as much as $6 billion, the person said.

A Boeing spokesman declined to comment.

Boeing chief financial officer Greg Smith had discussed raising more debt at the company’s quarterly earnings call in January.

Mr Smith said Boeing has “sufficient liquidity” currently, but it continues to consider all options to strengthen its balance sheet.

The company has leaned heavily on banks for financing over the past year. In early 2020 it signed a $13.8 billion delayed-draw term loan, drawing the full amount down just weeks later amid the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. That helped kicked off a global dash for cash as corporations tapped banks for hundreds of billions of dollars of financing.

– Bloomberg and Reuters