Boeing has slashed production of its biggest twin-engined jets, delayed its new 777X by up to a year and began sunsetting the iconic 747 as it posted a bigger-than-expected quarterly loss due to the COVID pandemic on Wednesday local time in Seattle.
The cuts mark the industry's latest effort to tackle a crisis that has decimated demand for air travel, with oversupplied wide-body models like the 787 Dreamliner and 777 plunging deeper into an existing downturn.
Boeing also remains exposed to tensions between the United States and China, which has shelved plans to buy big U.S. jets.
"Our industry and our company are weathering challenges like none we have ever experienced in our lifetimes," Chief Executive Dave Calhoun told Reuters.
Boeing said it would cut 787 output to six a month in 2021 - down from a record 14 a month last year.
It also plans to cut combined output of the 777 and its new 777X sister model to two a month in 2021 from a previous goal of three, while delaying the 777X entry to service by a year to 2022.
The commercial airplanes unit was hit by US$468 million in severance expenses related to plans to cut 19,000 jobs of its roughly 160,000 workforce and Boeing warned deeper cuts were possible.
"We'll have to further assess the size of our workforce," Calhoun told employees.
The financial impact of the health crisis has compounded the safety grounding of Boeing's narrow-body 737 MAX 16 months ago.
Calhoun told analysts MAX deliveries would resume in the fourth quarter, a fresh delay of several weeks that raises the prospect that its U.S. return to service could slip into 2021.
Boeing also slowed plans to lift battered MAX production, by pushing its target of 31 jets a month into 2022 from 2021.
"We still see a path to positive cash flow in 2021," CFO Greg Smith said, but pointed out it would take a year after MAX deliveries begin to clear a backlog of around 450 parked jets.
In a further shake-up, Calhoun said Boeing was looking at whether to consolidate 787 production in one location as it cuts output.
It splits production on the 787 Dreamliner between Everett, Washington, and North Charleston, South Carolina.
That raises questions over the future of the Everett hub because the largest 787-10 can only be built in South Carolina.
The wide-body production cuts reflect fears that it could take until 2023 for air traffic to return to normal levels. Long-range routes - served by bigger jets like Boeing 787 and Airbus A350 - have been hit harder than short hops.
Industry sources said Boeing's production cuts would put pressure on Airbus to further cut its own wide-body production. Airbus declined comment ahead of its own financial earnings report expected later this week.
Boeing also confirmed the last of its legendary 747 would roll out of the factory in 2022.