When Boeing’s Dreamliner was grounded in 2013, it took more than $20 million and three months to fix the problem. The crisis over its 737 Max jet could be even harder to manage, given the incalculable reputational risk after two fatal crashes.
The short-term costs such as a software fix to the plane are likely to be manageable for Boeing, but the bigger financial unknown is whether airlines lose confidence in the Max, the company’s best-selling jet. Some 4,600 planes are on order, accounting for around $550 billion in future revenue.
Since the second crash, in Ethiopia on Sunday, shares of Boeing have dropped nearly 11 percent.
“Reputationally and financially, this is painful,” said Richard Aboulafia, vice president of analysis at Teal Group Corp., a consulting firm.
With all of the Max planes now grounded around the world, Boeing’s first priority is developing a fix. Boeing has been working with American regulators to roll out a software update and new training guidelines in the months since the first crash, off Indonesia in October. The update is expected by April, but a final solution could take more time depending on what investigators determine happened in the Ethiopia disaster.
The longer it takes to find a solution, the higher the price tag. The battery fix for the Dreamliner jets amounted to $465,000 per plane, according to Carter Copeland, an analyst at Melius Research. Based on those costs, he estimates that Boeing could spend nearly $1 billion to resolve issues with the 737 Max fleet.
Airlines, which have 350 of the planes in their fleets, have also begun to demand compensation for their losses during the grounding. It costs an estimated $1 million to lease a replacement jet for three months.
“It’s quite obvious that we will not take the cost related to the new aircraft that we have to park temporarily,” said Bjorn Kjos, the chief executive of Norwegian Air, which had to take 18 of the planes out of service after an order from European regulators on Tuesday. “We will send this bill to those who produce this aircraft.”