New CEO David Calhoun faces deepening skepticism from the public and investors about the Boeing 737 Max, according to a new IBD/TIPP Poll, as the grounding has dragged on while batches of damning internal messages have eroded trust.
Calhoun started his tenure as Boeing (BA) CEO on Monday after the board of directors fired Dennis Muilenburg in December over his handling of the crisis, including overly optimistic timelines for a return to service that prompted a stern warning from the FAA.
His challenge was further underscored this week as American Airlines (AAL) said Tuesday that it's pulling the Boeing 737 Max from its schedules through June 3, after earlier cancelling those flights through April.
Top Boeing 737 Max customer Southwest Airlines (LUV) made a similar move Wednesdayl, after United Airlines (UAL) was the first to extend cancellations to June back in December.
Boeing stock rose 0.3% to 330.90 on the stock market today, but shares are still stuck well below their 50- and 200-day moving averages, according to MarketSmith chart analysis. Top supplier Spirit AeroSystems (SPR) rose 0.8%. General Electric (GE), whose CFM joint venture supplies engines for the Boeing 737 Max, edged up 0.1%.
Most Won't Fly On Boeing 737 Max
While Boeing works to repair its damaged image and return the 737 Max back to service under Calhoun, the public is becoming increasingly less likely to want to fly on the troubled narrow-body jet.
The IBD/TIPP Poll, which was conducted Jan. 3-11, found that 61% of Americans are following news of the Boeing jet grounding closely, while 39% are not.
Of those who are following the news closely, 56% said they would avoid flying on a Boeing 737 Max once it has reentered service, with 30% saying they were "very likely" to avoid it and 25% saying they were "somewhat likely."
That's up from the 48% who said they would avoid flying on the plane in a prior poll from May 30 through June 7, 2019, about two months after the grounding began.
By contrast, 41% said they were not likely to avoid the 737 Max, with 20% not very likely, 21% not at all likely, and 2% not sure. That's down from the prior poll where 48% said they were unlikely to avoid the jet.
More Bearish On Boeing
The most recent IBD/TIPP poll also found that 51% of respondents who have been following the 737 Max news have a less favorable view of Boeing, while just 2% have a more favorable view and 46% said their opinion of the company hasn't changed.
That's up from 49% saying they now have a less favorable view of Boeing in the May-June survey.
Investor sentiment on Boeing has seen a steeper drop. Among investors tracking the news, 54% have a lower opinion of the company, 1% have a more favorable view, and 45% said their view hasn't changed. That's worse than the 49% with a less favorable view in the prior survey and 44% in a survey conducted March 28 to April 6.
The performance of Boeing stock hasn't helped investor sentiment. While shares actually finished 2019 up 1%, the overall Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 22%. The Boeing 737 Max was grounded following the Ethiopian Airlines crash on March 10, 2019. That followed a similar 737 Max crash by Indonesia-based Lion Air on Oct. 29, 2018. In total 346 people were killed in the crashes.
Weaker earnings will also weigh on Boeing stock as costs pile up. Boeing so far has booked $9.2 billion in charges for the grounding and has stopped production on the jet. The company also faces pending lawsuits from families of crash victims as well as investigations from various agencies while airlines are demanding compensation over lost revenue from the grounding.
Some airlines will let skittish passengers switch from Boeing 737 Max flights, but European budget carrier Ryanair (RYAAY) reportedly won't and won't offer refunds either.
Shocking Boeing 737 Max Messages
The deteriorating trust in the Boeing 737 Max and the company coincides with the grounding dragging on longer than management had predicted and the release of internal messages from Boeing employees.
Last week, Boeing released email that revealed employee concerns about the safety of the 737 Max and a company culture pushing profit before safety. The FAA said that no new safety risks have been identified, but the messages showed employees disparaging the plane and management.
"This airplane is designed by clowns, who in turn are supervised by monkeys," a company pilot said about the Boeing 737 Max in a message to a co-worker in 2016.
"I'll be shocked if the FAA passes this turd," another employee said of the plane in a May 2018 message.
That trove of 150 pages of messages followed another embarrassing set of documents that the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Committee released in October.
Among them, a December 2015 message showed a Boeing employee was worried that the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System was vulnerable to a single point of failure.
And a June 2018 message from a 737 production manager warned that factory employees were exhausted from the pace of work and cut corners due to schedule pressure, saying "I'm hesitant about putting my family on a Boeing airplane."
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