Boeing will suspend production in Washington factories on coronavirus fears

Mar 23, 2020

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With Washington state under an emergency declaration, Boeing announced Monday that it would suspend all aircraft production in the state by Wednesday.

“This necessary step protects our employees and the communities where they work and live,” Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun said in a statement. “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. 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.”

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The production pause comes after the death of a Boeing worker as a result of COVID-19, and 29 employees confirmed to have the disease, according to The Seattle Times.

The company announced that all affected employees would continue being paid during the factory closures, and Boeing is encouraging employees in Washington who can work from home to do so.

Related: The latest TPG stories about coronavirus.

During the pause in production, Boeing said it “will be conducting additional deep cleaning activities at impacted sites and establishing rigorous criteria for return to work.” 787 assembly in South Carolina will not be affected, according to Bernard Choi, a Boeing spokesman.

While the production halt comes on the immediate heels of a Boeing employee’s death, it also comes amid a global slump in demand for new airliners.

Boeing is in a particularly precarious situation as the coronavirus pandemic stretches on. Demand for new aircraft is drying up as airlines face a major drop in new bookings, coupled with a precipitous rise in cancellations. The manufacturer was already troubled as it addressed issues with its best-selling 737 MAX, which is grounded worldwide after two fatal crashes that together killed 346 people.

The airframer has been working to get those jets approved to fly again, but has taken a financial hit in the process, making it poorly positioned to deal with a prolonged demand slump.

Featured photo by Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

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