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Emirates’ chairman has a message for Boeing: ‘Get your act together’

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One of Boeing’s biggest customers issued a call to action to its new management team, expressing frustration with the safety crisis facing the American planemaker and the consequent delays in order deliveries.

“We’re not happy really with what’s going on, we always really wanted to see this aircraft entering the fleet when it had been promised — and there is a delay, it’s not only to us,” Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, chairman and CEO of Dubai’s flagship Emirates airline, told CNBC’s Dan Murphy on Tuesday at the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai.

With 245 passenger planes and five 778 freighters on order, Emirates is Boeing’s largest customer in terms of widebody jets. But aircraft deliveries by the manufacturer dropped in the first quarter of 2024 to the lowest number since mid-2021 as the company deals with increased scrutiny after a door plug blew out from one of its 737 Max 9 planes midair in January.

The company delivered 83 planes in the three months to March 31 — most of them narrowbody 737s — compared to 157 in the prior quarter and 130 planes in the year-earlier period.

Al Maktoum, who sits at the helm of the world’s largest long-haul airline and helped launch it in 1985, echoed the sentiments of many other airline CEOs when it comes to expectations of Boeing.

“I think they have to put a lot of pressure in order to make sure that they deliver to the customer whatever they promised,” he said.

Asked if he had a message for the planemaker, Al Maktoum said: “I always say, you know, get your act together and just do it. And I think they can do it.”

CNBC has contacted Boeing for comment.

The chairman did not indicate that Emirates would cancel the Boeing orders or move them to its French rival, Airbus.

“No, no — I won’t be able to say exactly what we are planning,” he replied when asked about the likelihood of such a move. “But I think you see that we are refurbishing a big number of aircraft within the existing fleet … And there will be no shortage within Dubai capacity.”

He cited the airline’s extension of part of its existing fleet, including the mammoth double-decker Airbus A380s, as helping provide sufficient passenger capacity.

The recently-appointed new management team at Boeing is now tasked with navigating the company’s worst crisis since 2018-2019, during which time two of its new 737 Max jets crashed within a period of six months, killing 346 people.

Following the Alaska Airlines door blowout in January, the Federal Aviation Administration’s six-week audit of Boeing and Spirit AeroSystems “found multiple instances where the companies allegedly failed to comply with manufacturing quality control requirements,” according to an FAA release published March 4.

“The FAA identified non-compliance issues in Boeing’s manufacturing process control, parts handling and storage, and product control,” it said. The regulatory agency said it informed Boeing’s leadership that it “must address the audit’s findings as part of its comprehensive corrective action plan to fix systemic quality-control issues,” and address its “safety culture.”

In a previous statement cited by CNBC, a Boeing spokesperson said in response to the FAA findings that the company continues “to implement immediate changes and develop a comprehensive action plan to strengthen safety and quality.” 

The company’s website says it continues to support the U.S. NTSB and FAA investigations of the Jan. 5 accident.”

— CNBC’s Leslie Josephs contributed to this report.

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