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SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - Dozens of undelivered Dreamliner jets of Boeing are lined-up at the company’s premises in Seattle and North Charleston.

After last year’s global grounding of 737 MAX jets, Boeing had so many of them on hand it commandeered an employee parking lot to store surplus aircraft. Now, as it finally starts to emerge from that crisis, another critical source of cash is under pressure.

Boeing had relied on the wide-body jet, produced in record numbers, to help bankroll the $20 billion in costs it has rung up since the MAX was banned from the commercial flight in March 2019 following two fatal crashes. But as Covid-19 sapped consumer interest in long-range travel this year, the tally of undelivered Dreamliners has stacked up and created a new financial drag as regulators move closer to clearing the 737’s return.

Demand for the twin-aisle 787, Boeing’s 777, and Airbus’s A350 and A330neo have been especially hard hit as cash-strapped airlines slow or cancel aircraft purchases. Some would-be buyers don’t want to send pilots to claim aircraft in the U.S., where the pandemic is raging. When they are able to start growing fleets, airlines are expected to initially focus on smaller planes for domestic flights before adding larger aircraft for continent-hopping trips.

Customers took just three of Boeing’s 787 during May and June, and 36 of the aircraft in the first six months of the year. That’s down from 78 deliveries a year earlier.

Boeing has already lowered 787 production to 10 jets a month, with deeper cuts to come over the next two years. Still, the manufacturer could be left holding one-third of the more than 100 Dreamliners that J.P. Morgan analyst Seth Seifman projects the company will build this year.

Boeing’s ballooning 787 inventory and deferred production costs should come into sharper focus over the next two weeks as key customers like American Airlines Group Inc. and United Airlines Holdings Inc. report earnings, followed by the Chicago-based manufacturer on July 29.

For years after the 787 Dreamliner made its commercial debut in 2011, taped up aircraft awaiting retrofitted parts dotted Paine Field, adjacent to Boeing’s factory in Everett, Washington. For Sheth, there’s a sense of déjà vu to the growing glut.
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