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United CEO casts doubt on 737 Max 10 order after Boeing’s recent problems

United Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 9 passenger aircraft as seen taxiing at Chicago International Airport O’Hare ORD preparing for a departure flight. The modern and advanced Boeing 737M is a new commercial airplane, flying less than half year, with the registration tail number N77543, ETOPS certified and is powered by 2x CFMI jet engines. 

Nicolous Economou | Nurphoto | Getty Images

United Airlines is weighing fleet plans without the Boeing 737 Max 10 after a series of delays and most recently, the grounding of a smaller variant of the plane, the carrier’s CEO said Tuesday.

The Max 10 is the largest model of the plane and hasn’t yet been certified by the Federal Aviation Administration.

United CEO Scott Kirby said the plane is already “best case” about five years delayed and expressed frustration at Boeing for the most recent manufacturing problem in which a door plug blew out during an Alaska Airlines 737 Max 9 flight on Jan. 5, prompting the FAA to ground those planes.

United has 79 of the 737 Max 9 aircraft in its fleet, more than any other carrier. The ongoing grounding will drive a first-quarter loss, the airline said Monday while reporting its fourth-quarter earnings.

“I think the Max 9 grounding is probably the straw that broke the camel’s back for us,” Kirby said in an interview with CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Tuesday. “We’re going to at least build a plan that doesn’t have the Max 10 in it.”

In August 2018, Kirby, then United’s president, outlined cabin plans for the some 100 Max 10s the company had ordered, saying at the time the carrier expected to fly them in 2020. The planes would help replace some older jets, he said.

Last week, Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian told CNBC last week that he is confident moving forward with his airline’s order of Boeing Max 10s.

Boeing didn’t immediately comment. The company is scheduled to report quarterly results on Jan. 31.

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