Boeing reportedly will resume deliveries of 737 MAX aircraft to Chinese customers, according to several media reports citing unnamed sources. The OEM has not commented on any such development, which could have a significant, positive effect on its revenues and ease its excess inventory of the narrow-body jets.
Among dozens of 737 MAX aircraft completed and awaiting delivery, about 120 are thought to be destined for Chinese carriers that booked orders prior to the series prolonged shutdown, from March 2019 to December 2020. The financial strain of carrying the surplus aircraft was such that a Boeing exec last year told an investors’ conference that undelivered jets could be reallocated to more receptive customers.
Most of the undelivered aircraft have been ordered by three carriers – Air China, China Eastern Airlines, and China Southern Airlines.
The 737 MAX is Boeing’s best-selling jet series, with over 5,500 total orders and more than 4,900 still to be delivered. Series production continued through the period when the aircraft were grounded by civil aviation agencies around the world, following the second of two fatal accidents.
Boeing investigated and then addressed the cause of the crashes that killed a total of 346 passengers and crew members, identifying a flight-control software error that forced the aircraft into a descent which crew members were unable to override.
Beginning in December 2022, Boeing resumed 737 MAX deliveries, as various civil aviation bodies around the world cleared the jets for operation.
The exception was China, which had been the first nation to ground 737 MAX flights in March 2019. The Civil Aviation Administration of China finally granted authorization for the flights to resume in December 2021. About 90% of the 737 MAX aircraft previously delivered to Chinese carriers had resumed service by earlier this year, according to Boeing.
But gaining clearance to resume deliveries took much longer, in what most commentators concluded was an attempt by China to leverage its trade negotiating position with the U.S.
The reports forecasting the resumed deliveries suggest they could begin during Q3, though there is no confirmation of that point from Boeing nor from its waiting customers.