supply chain: Airlines need new planes, but the supply chain has other ideas

Airlines are desperate to get more planes to meet insatiable and growing travel demand, but the two major plane manufacturers, Boeing and Airbus, are struggling to keep up.
After retrenching at the start of the pandemic in 2020, airlines bounced back quickly and started placing large orders for new planes as they sought to upgrade and expand their fleets. But supply chain problems have hampered production, leading carriers to warn investors this month that plane deliveries might be delayed.
American Airlines cut a forecast for how many Boeing 737 Max planes it would get next year based on discussions with the manufacturer, while JetBlue Airways said it was preparing to receive fewer planes than expected from Airbus in 2023. United Airlines, which has big orders with both manufacturers, said that its deliveries next year could slide, too.

“Nearly every industry is navigating broad supply chain, inflation, labor and macroeconomic challenges — and we’re certainly no different,” Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun said in a note to employees Wednesday.
Calhoun said Boeing employees were spending more time on-site with suppliers to understand their challenges. The company has also expanded its digital inventory tools, assembled a team of experts to address supply chain problems and taken other actions. But Boeing, a leading American manufacturer, expects the problems to continue through next year.
Boeing again cut its forecast of the number of 737s it would deliver this year to 375, down from about 500 that it had expected at the start of the year.
Airbus has said it faces production challenges similar to Boeing’s. This summer, the company said it would delay increasing production of its popular A320 family of planes because of supply chain issues.
The company’s CEO, Guillaume Faury, told investors last month that it had set up “watchtowers” to keep an eye on suppliers during the pandemic and help them deal with their own problems, one of which was hiring quickly enough. Airbus aims to deliver 700 planes this year, and Faury said he was optimistic that it could ship the remaining 320 planes to achieve that goal.
“It’s not just an end-of-the year battle,” he said at an Airbus event with financial analysts Sept. 23. “It’s something we need to manage as well in 2023, and it’s going to be a difficult year again. We don’t know exactly when the situation of the supply chain will have normalized.”
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