The top executive at United Airlines threatened to shun Boeing after the carrier’s fleet of Max 9 aircraft was grounded in the wake of the near-disastrous Alaska Airlines door blowout.
“I think the Max 9 grounding is probably the straw that broke the camel’s back for us,” United CEO Scott Kirby told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Tuesday morning.
Kirby lamented the fact that he envisions a five-year delay — which he calls “best case” scenario — for the rollout of the 737 Max 10, the latest version of the plane that has yet to be certified by the Federal Aviation Administration.
“We’re going to at least build a plan that doesn’t have the Max 10 in it.”
Kirby later said United would not cancel the jets, just remove them from internal plans.
Kirby’s public comments come after people familiar with the matter told Reuters this month United had become “incensed” with a supplier with which it shares corporate roots.
It has been forced to ground 79 Max 9 jets for which it had sold seats.
Stan Deal, who heads Boeing’s commercial airplanes division, apologized to airlines for the disruption caused by the Alaska Airlines incident.
“We have let down our airline customers and are deeply sorry for the significant disruption to them, their employees and their passengers,” Deal said in a statement provided to The Post.
“We are taking action on a comprehensive plan to bring these airplanes safely back to service and to improve our quality and delivery performance.”
Deal pledged that Boeing “will follow the lead of the FAA and support our customers every step of the way.”
The FAA ordered the grounding of the 737 Max 9 in the wake of the Jan. 5 incident in which a door plug blew out mid-flight on Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 from Portland, Ore. to Ontario, Calif.
United’s fleet consists of 79 737 Max 9 aircraft — the most of any carrier.
Since the Jan. 5 incident, United and other US domestic carriers have been forced to either delay or cancel dozens of flights.
Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian told CNBC he was confident that the company made the right decision in moving forward with its Max 10 orders.
The Max 10 does not have the same kind of door-plug system as the Max 9, but the grounding has raised concerns that the incident could delay regulatory approval and delivery of the Max 10, as well as temper broader plans for higher production.
After disappointing Max 9 sales, Boeing is betting on its newest proposal, the larger-capacity Max 10, to dent the runaway lead of Airbus’s A321neo at the busiest end of the market.
Analysts say a full rollout of the Max line-up is crucial to help Boeing stabilize its roughly 40% share against Airbus and generate enough cash to comfortably ride out the coming decade.
Industry experts say airlines rarely cancel orders for fear of losing deposits, but often juggle models or else use public pressure to help win concessions.
With Post wires