(Reuters) – Boeing Co said on Tuesday orders nearly halved in the first quarter and the planemaker handed over far fewer aircraft, as it struggles with a worldwide grounding of its best-selling 737 MAX jets following two fatal crashes.
Total orders, an indication of future demand, fell to 95 aircraft in the first quarter from 180 a year earlier. There were no new MAX orders in March, the company said.
The fall in order suggests that airlines had adopted a wait-and-watch approach as Boeing looks to ride out the worst crisis in its history.
Still, Boeing is ahead of its European rival Airbus, which last week said it had won 62 gross orders during the first three months of 2019 but some 120 cancellations left it with a negative net order.
Boeing’s first-quarter deliveries of the 737 planes tumbled about 33 percent, pushing total deliveries down 19 percent to 149 planes from a year earlier. Just 11 MAXs were delivered in March.
The company froze deliveries of the aircraft in mid-March after a fatal crash of an Ethiopian Airlines jet led to the global grounding of the narrowbody model.
Deliveries are financially important to planemakers because that’s when airlines pay most of the money.
Boeing said on Friday it would cut monthly production of the 737 MAX jets by 20 percent, starting mid-April, without giving an end-date.
The 737 MAX, a new variant of the 737 family, is central to Boeing’s future in its battle with Airbus and the likely workhorse for global airlines for decades.
Boeing began taking orders for the single-aisle jetliner in 2011 and delivered its first MAX plane to Malindo Air, a subsidiary of Lion Air Group, in May 2017.
There were more than 300 MAX jetliners in operation at the time of the fatal Lion Air crash last October, and about 4,600 more on order.
The Chicago-based airplane maker had been ramping up MAX deliveries, with the planes accounting for nearly half of the deliveries in the last few months.
Boeing’s shares were down 1.4 percent at $369.50 in afternoon trading.
(Reporting by Rachit Vats and Ankit Ajmera in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva and Sriraj Kalluvila)