Airlines Need New Planes, but the Supply Chain Has Other Ideas

The company said on Wednesday that 737 production was mainly being held back by engine deliveries and that it was working closely with suppliers, including CFM International, a joint venture between Safran Aircraft Engines and General Electric, to address the problem.

“We are clearly on the same page, ourselves and our suppliers,” Mr. Calhoun said.

For Boeing, at least, the supply chain isn’t the only threat to its delivery pipeline. The company is also racing to meet an end-of-year deadline to get the Max 7 and Max 10 approved by federal regulators. If it fails to do so — or fails to get an extension passed by Congress — it will have to substantially overhaul the plane’s pilot-alerting system to meet more stringent standards. Boeing and others have argued that the overhaul would be costly and counterproductive, leaving the two Max variants with a different system from other 737s. Others, including the union that represents the pilots at American Airlines, say it is long past time for the overhaul.

Alaska said that it did not plan its first Max 10 delivery until the summer of 2024 and that it would take Max 9s if the Max 10 was unavailable. Delta’s chief executive, Ed Bastian, said this month that the airline had a “plan B” if the Max 10 was not certified in time for Delta’s expected deliveries.

While travelers are returning to the skies in large numbers, the recovery has been rocky for airlines. Last winter, fast-spreading Omicron cases decimated crews while bad weather disrupted flights, causing thousands of cancellations. Problems arose again in the spring and early summer, exacerbated by limited pilot availability. That led airlines to scale back their ambitions so they would be better prepared for disruptions.

For Alaska, the decision paid off. Transportation Department data show that it had the best on-time performance of any major U.S. carrier in June and July. During those busy summer months, about 80 percent of Alaska flights were on time. Fewer than 1 percent were canceled, while the rest were delayed for various reasons, many of them out of the airline’s control.

The airline said this month that it had brought in record quarterly revenue in the three months that ended in September, with strong expectations for the rest of the year. Alaska said it expected revenue to be up 12 to 15 percent in the fourth quarter, even though it would offer 7 to 10 percent fewer seats. Airlines across the industry have been collecting record revenues — but not record profits — as they raised fares in response to higher costs.

Despite broad economic concerns, demand for travel remains high going into the end of the year because holiday trips will bring the industry a needed boost, countries are still reopening, flexible workplace rules have allowed people to travel more, and because airlines can’t get pilots or planes fast enough.


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