Boeing’s business is improving. But its troubles are not yet behind it. The company on Wednesday reported a much smaller loss in the first quarter, helped by improved deliveries of the 737 Max, its best-selling jet that had been grounded for 20 months by two fatal crashes. The 737 Max began flying again late last year.
But Boeing said it doesn’t yet have a solution for a second grounding of the Max due to electrical issues. And the company said the recovery in demand for commercial jets remains “uneven.” Jet demand has been badly damaged by the pandemic. Because of that, Boeing expects billions of dollars in additional costs from the uneven level of production at its factories. Still, the company’s core operating loss came in at $353 million, a fraction of the $1.7 billion it reported on that basis a year ago. And its net loss was only $83 million, down from $1.4 billion in the first three months of 2020. In a memo to Boeing employees CEO Dave Calhoun said “we view 2021 as a key inflection point for our industry,” as he points to rising levels of Covid-19 vaccinations and pent-up demand for air travel.
Problems will probably continue with the recovery in different segments of the global aviation market, he conceded in an interview Wednesday on CNBC. “It’s always slower than anyone would like, but I’m optimistic,” he said. The core loss, despite being lower than a year ago, was larger than forecast by analysts. That sent Boeing (BA) shares down about 3% in early trading.