Boeing Shares Drop After Ethiopian Airlines Crash

Boeing Shares Drop After Ethiopian Airlines Crash
Business|Boeing Shares Drop After Ethiopian Airlines Crash

A second deadly accident involving a 737 Max 8, the latest version of the best-selling jet in the company’s history, prompted some airlines and countries to ground the aircraft.

Boeing’s stock dropped on Monday, a day after a fatal crash in Ethiopia involving the newest version of its most popular jet, the 737 Max.

Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed just outside Addis Ababa shortly after takeoff on Sunday, killing all 157 people on board. The plane’s flight-data and cockpit-voice recorders have been recovered, but the cause of the crash is unknown and will take weeks to investigate.

But the crash was the second for a new version of the 737 Max after one of the jets operated by Lion Air crashed into the Java Sea off Indonesia in late October, and some countries and carriers responded by grounding their fleets of the plane.

Ethiopian Airlines grounded all of its 737 Max 8 planes, and China and Indonesia ordered the grounding of all 737 Max planes. Cayman Airways said it was grounding two new 737 Max jets, and Chinese airlines on Monday began using Boeing 737-800s on routes typically flown by 737 Max jets.

“Although we don’t yet know the cause of the accident, we had to decide to ground the particular fleet as extra safety precaution,” Ethiopian Airlines said in a statement on Monday.

Comair, a South African airline, which took delivery of its first 737 Max 8 just a few days ago, grounded the jet after initially saying that it would continue running it. It had decided to wait until it had consulted with Boeing, other airlines and technical experts, the company said in a statement.

Still, several carriers, including Boeing’s biggest customers in the United States, said they would keep flying the aircraft. Southwest Airlines, the biggest buyer of the aircraft in the United States, said it would continue flying the jet, as did American Airlines.

After falling nearly 13 percent in early trading, Boeing shares bounced back to end the day down around 5 percent.

On Monday afternoon, the Federal Aviation Administration said in a message on Twitter that it would issue a “continued airworthiness notification” for the 737 Max.

The questions raised by the latest crash go to the heart of Boeing’s business. The single-aisle 737 Max, the American plane maker’s challenger to Airbus’s A320 jet, was Boeing’s best-selling plane ever. It first started flying in 2017 and by this January, the company had delivered more than 350 of the planes, which sell for $120 million apiece.

About 5,000 more are on order.

It was unclear how the groundings of the 737 Max might affect Boeing’s bottom line. The cost to the company would be significant if regulators in the United States decided to follow suit and take the fleet out of service temporarily.

Such occurrences are rare.

If the 737 Max is taken out of service, Boeing might have to compensate airlines for delayed deliveries. The company might also have to invest in redesigning or updating the aircraft. And Boeing could face lawsuits filed by the families of those killed in the Ethiopian Airline crash.

Carter Copeland, an analyst at Melius Research, estimated that Boeing could face nearly $1 billion in costs if regulators grounded its 737 Max fleet for three months. He said his analysis was based partly on the expenses incurred by Boeing when the F. A.A. ordered the company’s 787s to stop flying temporarily in 2013 because of a problem with the plane’s battery system.

The drop in Boeing’s stock on Monday wiped almost $13 billion off the company’s market value.

“That speaks to the fear,” Mr. Copeland said. “Right now there is a very difficult to quantify risk that people need a substantial discount to stomach.”

The decision by China’s Civil Aviation Administration to ground the planes hurts Boeing in a region where the company has been able to sell a large number of them. Chinese airlines have ordered at least 104 737 Max planes, and have taken delivery of at least 70.

Several airlines indicated they were holding off on grounding the planes. SpiceJet, a low-cost Indian airline, said it would continue allowing them to fly while awaiting guidance from Indian air safety regulators. Eastar Jet in South Korea and Fiji Airways also said they would keep flying their 737 Max 8s, as did SilkAir, a Singapore Airlines subsidiary.

After the Lion Air Crash, some American aviation authorities said Boeing had not adequately explained to pilots a software change on the 737 Max’s flight control system.

Since then, airlines have provided training classes to inform pilots of the changes to the new system, but it is not known whether Ethiopian Airlines had conducted such training. The available information does not rule out pilot error or a malfunctioning of an entirely separate system.

Boeing said in a statement that it would be sending a technical team to the crash site to provide assistance to the Ethiopia Accident Investigation Bureau and the United States National Transportation Safety Board.

In the United States, the head of the Association of Flight Attendants called for the F.A.A. to investigate the 737 Max. The F.A.A said it was monitoring the situation and planned to join the N.T.S.B. in assisting in the investigation.

Airline

Status

Number of 737 MAX 8s in Fleet

Southwest Airlines

In use

34

Air Canada

In use

24

American Airlines

In use

24

China Southern Airlines

Grounded

22

Norwegian Air

In use

18

Air China

Grounded

15

TUI fly

In use

15

SpiceJet

In use

13

WestJet

In use

13

Hainan Airlines

Grounded

11

Shanghai Airlines

Grounded

11

FlyDubai

In use

11

Turkish Airlines

In use

11

Xiamen Airlines

Grounded

10

Lion Air

Grounded

10

Smartwings

In use

7

Shandong Airlines

Grounded

7

GOL Airlines

Grounded

7

Shenzhen Airlines

Grounded

6

SilkAir

Grounded

6

Aeromexico

Grounded

6

Aerolineas Argentinas

Grounded

5

LOT

In use

5

Oman Air

In use

5

Jet Airways

Previously grounded

5

Ethiopian Airlines

Grounded

4

China Eastern Airlines

Grounded

4

Sunwing Airlines

In use

4

Lucky Air

Grounded

3

Air Italy

In use

3

Icelandair

In use

3

Cayman Airways

Grounded

2

Eastar Jet

Grounded

2

Fiji Airways

In use

2

Fuzhou Airlines

Grounded

2

Kunming Airlines

Grounded

2

Okay Airways

Grounded

2

S7 Airlines

In use

2

Enter Air

Unknown

2

Royal Air Maroc

Grounded

1

9 Air

Grounded

1

Garuda Indonesia

Grounded

1

Comair

Grounded

1

Mauritania Airlines

Unknown

1

MIAT Mongolian Airlines

Grounded

1

Corendon Airlines

Unknown

1

SCAT

In use

1

Zach Wichter contributed reporting.

​Amie Tsang is a general assignment business reporter based in London, where she has covered a variety of topics, including the gender pay gap, aviation and the London Fatberg. @amietsang

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