Boeing suspends Puget Sound production as Covid-19 pandemic hits aviation
Plane maker is the largest private employer in the Washington state where it employs more than 70,000 people
Boeing will suspend production at its plants in Puget Sound, Washington, due to the spread of the coronavirus in the area, as the outbreak rattles the aerospace industry.
Production will halt temporarily starting March 25 for two weeks, during which the company will monitor US government guidance on Covid-19 and its impact on company operations, Boeing said on Monday. Deep cleaning of the facilities will ensue during the closures, is said.
"This necessary step protects our employees and the communities where they work and live," said Boeing president and chief executive Dave Calhoun. "We continue to work closely with public health officials, and we're in contact with our customers, suppliers and other stakeholders who are affected by this temporary suspension."
The shutdown follows similar moves by French rival Airbus, though the European plane maker said production and assembly operations in France and Spain were expected to partially resume on March 23. The rapid spread of the virus has triggered worldwide government calls for residents to stay at home, battered the global economy and wiped out air travel demand.
The pandemic has infected more than 382,000 people worldwide and killed above 16,500, according to Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking global data on the outbreak. More than 101,800 people have recovered.
Boeing is the largest private employer in the Washington state where it employs more than 70,000 people, with nearly half of its global workforce located in the Puget Sound, according to its website.
The area is at the centre of Boeing's production facilities and is home to the plane maker's Everett factory, where it manufactures the new 777X wide-body aircraft.
Boeing asked employees based in the Puget Sound area, who can work from home to continue to do so. Those who cannot work remotely will receive 10 days of paid leave during the suspension period.
The company will begin reducing production activity ahead of the suspension on Wednesday and liaising with customers, suppliers and stakeholders impacted by the shutdown.
"We regret the difficulty this will cause them, as well as our employees, but it's vital to maintain health and safety for all those who support our products and services, and to assist in the national effort to combat the spread of Covid-19," Mr Calhoun said.
US President Donald Trump said Boeing will require government assistance to cope with the impact of the virus crisis that has hit the aviation industry.
“Boeing’s going to need some help,” Mr Trump said at a White House news conference on Monday, Bloomberg reported. “Obviously the airlines are going to have a problem, but the airlines are not going to be buying from Boeing or anybody else right now because of this difficulty.”
The US plane maker's airline customers are in discussions to defer aircraft deliveries and payment schedules, exacerbating Boeing's woes after its best-selling 737 Max jet was grounded a year ago due to two fatal crashes.
Boeing said it will hold its April 27 annual meeting of shareholders in a "virtual format", due to public health concerns during the pandemic.
Updated: March 26, 2020 10:30 AM