Boeing to suspend 787 Dreamliner production as coronavirus hits aerospace industry

The company will halt its South Carolina plant operations from April 8 until further notice

An idle employee turnstile gate is shown Monday, April 6, 2020, at Boeing Co.'s airplane assembly facility in Renton, Wash. Boeing said Sunday it will continue its shutdown of production indefinitely at its Seattle area facilities due to the spread of the coronavirus. The company said the decision is based on the health and safety of its employees, assessment of the coronavirus spread, supply chain concerns and recommendations from government health officials. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
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Boeing will temporarily suspend production of the 787 Dreamliner at its South Carolina factories due to the coronavirus pandemic, after similar closures of its plants in Washington state.

The US plane manufacturer will halt operations by the end of second shift from April 8 until further notice, Boeing said on Monday after the state governor's order on Monday directing residents to stay at home except for essential trips.

"It is our commitment to focus on the health and safety of our teammates while assessing the spread of the virus across the state, its impact on the reliability of our global supply chain and that ripple effect on the 787 programme,” Brad Zaback, vice president and general manager of the 787 Programme and site leader, said.

"We are working in alignment with state and local government officials and public health officials to take actions that best protect our people.”

Boeing said on Sunday that it would extend the suspension of operations in its plants at Puget Sound, Washington state, where it produces its 777 wide-body aircraft.

Airline customers are seeking deferrals from aircraft manufacturers on plane deliveries and down payments as they grapple with a severe cash shortage due to the Covid-19 crisis that has decimated air travel demand.

Boeing directed its South Carolina employees who can work from home to do so while those who cannot work remotely will get paid leave for 10 working days of the suspension.

After the 10 days, employees can opt to use a combination of available paid time off benefits or file for emergency state unemployment benefits, Boeing said.

All benefits will continue as normal during the suspension of operations, regardless of how staff choose to record their time, it said.

During the suspension period on the 787 programme, Boeing said it will continue to continue to clean the site and monitor the global supply chain as the situation evolves.

European rival Airbus is also temporarily pausing production this week at its A220/A320 manufacturing facility in Mobile, Alabama in the US until April 29, it said on Monday.

"These actions are being taken in response to several factors related to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic including high inventory levels in the sites and the various government recommendations and requirements which impact at different stages of the overall industrial production flow," Airbus said.

"Airbus continues to closely monitor and respond to the changing environment to maintain business continuity across its global industrial stream," it said.

The US has the highest number of coronavirus infections globally, overtaking Italy and China, with the pandemic leading to a surge in unemployment in the world's largest economy.

In March, the unemployment rate increased by 0.9 percentage points to 4.4 per cent, the biggest jump since January 1975, according to an April 3 statement by the US Bureau of Labour Statistics.

A record 6.64 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits in the week ending March 28, according to government data released on April 2.

This more than doubled from the previous weekly record of 3.3 million, set in the prior week ending March 21.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the US reached 368,449, while the death toll stood at 10,993, according to the Johns Hopkins University coronavirus tracker. A total of 19,919 people have recovered.