The recovery has yet to arrive at Boeing. In its first-quarter 2021 earnings, the aerospace manufacturer revealed a net loss of $561 million or $0.92 per share, its sixth consecutive quarterly loss. Boeing’s loss from operations was $83 million, its operating margin was -0.5%, and its operating cash flow was negative $3.4 billion.
According to Boeing, the loss was mainly driven by lower deliveries of the company’s 787 jet, partially offset by more deliveries of the company’s 737. The company delivered 77 planes in the first quarter for $4.3 billion in revenue, but lost $856 million in operating costs to deliver an operating margin of -20.1%.
In a statement, Boeing CEO David Calhoun said he was “proud” of the progress made by Boeing in transforming its business and strengthening its safety reputation. He also predicted clearer skies in the rest of the year to come.
“While the global pandemic continues to challenge the overall market environment, we view 2021 as a key inflection point for our industry to help enable a robust recovery,” said Calhoun. “We remain focused on safety, quality and integrity as we deliver on our customer commitments.”
The grim figures improved somewhat over last year’s figures from when Boeing had only one crisis on its hands. In the first quarter of 2020, Boeing posted a net loss of $641 million, $1.11 per share, and $1.4 billion in lost operating costs. That came after December 2020 saw Boeing’s then-CEO Dennis Muilenburg testify to Congress about two deadly 737 MAX crashes. Muilenburg was replaced in January 2020 by Calhoun, who laid out a plan to bring the MAX back to the skies in time for the busy summer 2020 travel season.
That travel season never came to be thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, which ground international travel to a halt and crushed Boeing’s commercial-airliner clients.
And the 737 MAX troubles are still not entirely in the rear-view mirror for Boeing: A recent spat of electrical issues on some 737 MAX planes has led to another, smaller grounding. On the earnings call, Calhoun said he expected the FAA to approve a fix for those issues in “relatively short order” but that it might affect April deliveries.
In Boeing’s earnings call, Calhoun expressed optimism in the coming 2021 travel season thanks to continued distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“We’re encouraged by the speed of vaccine development and efficacy rates,” he said. But full recovery will still be a long time coming, he said: “We expect it will take around three years for travel to return to the 2019 levels and a few years beyond that to return to our long-term growth trends.” Calhoun said he expects domestic travel to return first, then regional, followed lastly by long-haul international routes.