Boeing orders sink as customers opt to swap MAX

(Reuters) - Boeing Co BA.N took 10 new plane orders last month, but saw some customers swapping the U.S. planemaker's grounded 737 MAX planes in favor of more expensive wide-body planes as doubts lingered about the MAX's return to service.

FILE PHOTO: An aerial photo shows Boeing 737 MAX aircraft at Boeing facilities at the Grant County International Airport in Moses Lake, Washington, September 16, 2019. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson

Net orders so far this year came to just 45 at the end of October, down from 56 in September, further widening the gap on sales this year with the company's European rival Airbus SE AIR.PA which has now sold nearly 500 more planes.

After an accounting adjustment representing jets ordered in previous years, but now unlikely to be delivered, Boeing’s net total for orders this year sank to a negative 95 airplanes.

The orders included what Boeing called a "conversion" by Air Lease Corp AL.N of 15 MAX orders into five 787 Dreamliners. Turkmenistan Airlines also removed three MAX planes from the order book.

Air Lease, which had 135 outstanding orders for the 737 MAX as of October, down from 150 orders in September, has said the conversion reflected greater demand from airline customers for the 787 in future years.

Though several airlines have taken the MAX out of their flying schedule till March next year, Boeing on Monday indicated it expects U.S. regulators to approve the return to commercial service of the jet in the coming weeks, allowing it to possibly begin deliveries of the grounded planes next month.

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Boeing’s orders and deliveries have lagged Airbus this year due to the prolonged grounding of its best-selling MAX jets following two fatal crashes that have killed hundreds of people.

To cope with the fallout after the grounding, Boeing has slowed production to 42 MAX jets per month from 52 earlier, causing the planemaker to take billions of dollars in charges.

Boeing deliveries fell nearly 50% to 321 aircraft in the 10 months through October, compared with a nearly 11% increase in Airbus’ deliveries to 648 jets, during the same period.

Airbus has booked 542 net orders, including a record order for 300 aircraft from India's IndiGo INGL.NS announced last month.

Airbus wide-body orders include 12 A330neo jets sold last month to leasing giant GECAS, the aircraft leasing unit of General Electric Co GE.N, according to people familiar with the matter. The jets are powered by engines made by Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc RR.L, a GE rival.

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Reporting by Sanjana Shivdas, Ankit Ajmera and Eric Johnson; Editing by Patrick Graham and Shounak Dasgupta