Key Points:

  • United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby has privately expressed frustration with Boeing's leadership and handling of the ongoing 737 Max grounding.

  • Kirby seeks broader industry support to pressure Boeing for leadership changes, while speaking with the US Transportation Department on the matter.

  • The pressure builds on Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun and the company's directors, facing increased scrutiny from regulators and airline partners.

Mounting Frustration and Calls for Change

United Airlines chief Scott Kirby has become a vocal critic of Boeing's recent performance, particularly in the wake of the January 5th Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 incident and the subsequent grounding of its MAX fleet. According to anonymous sources close to the matter, Kirby has privately vented his frustrations and concerns with Boeing management, specifically regarding their handling of the grounding and past quality lapses.

While stopping short of a direct public call for leadership changes at Boeing, Kirby has reportedly been seeking support from other airlines and industry stakeholders to collectively pressure the planemaker for reform. He has also held discussions with US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, urging further scrutiny and potentially influencing the Biden administration's response to the situation.

Heightened Scrutiny and Pressure on Boeing

Kirby's frustrations echo the growing sentiment of unease among airlines and regulators towards Boeing. The recent mid-air incident, compounded by a history of quality control issues, has placed immense pressure on Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun and the company's board of directors. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has doubled down on its investigation, expanding its scrutiny beyond the MAX 9 to include older 737 models.

Secretary Buttigieg's involvement highlights the heightened attention the government is paying to the situation. While the Department of Transportation lacks the legal authority to directly dictate changes in Boeing's leadership, it can exert pressure through regulatory actions or other high-profile measures. Secretary Buttigieg's emphasis on a thorough FAA review, independent of Boeing's assurances, further underscores the administration's serious concerns.

Uncertain Path Forward

The precise actions the Biden administration will take in response to Boeing's recent challenges remain unclear. However, the growing chorus of criticism from a prominent airline CEO like Kirby, coupled with increased governmental scrutiny, puts considerable pressure on Boeing to address concerns and demonstrate a renewed commitment to safety and quality control.

The industry and the public at large await to see how Boeing responds to this internal and external pressure, and whether it will be enough to restore trust and confidence in the once-unquestioned aviation giant.