Boeing lost $2.2 billion in 2023 as the company continued seeking to stem vast losses from its commercial aircraft business, which faces ongoing quality troubles and fresh scrutiny from the Federal Aviation Administration.

The company’s 2023 loss – improved from its $5.1 billion loss in 2022 – also reflects unresolved troubles within its defence business.

“Our full focus is on taking comprehensive actions to strengthen quality at Boeing, including listening to input from our 737 employees that do this work every day,” Boeing chief financial officer Dave Calhoun said on 31 January, the day the US manufacturer disclosed its 2023 financial results.

Boeing’s commercial aircraft business lost $1.6 billion in 2023, improved from a $2.3 billion loss in the prior year, with the unit’s 2023 revenue up 30% year on year to $33.9 billion.

A Boeing 737 Max being assembled at Boeing's Renton facility on 15 June 2022

Source: The Seattle Times, Ellen Banner, pool reports

A Boeing 737 being assembled at Boeing’s facility on 15 June 2022

That revenue bump reflects an increase in aircraft deliveries; the company delivered 528 jets in 2023, up 10% year on year.

The losses came during a year Boeing continually dealt with fresh troubles affecting its 737 programme. During 2023, Boeing revealed an issue involving miss-drilled holes in 737 aft-pressure bulkheads and a problem involving loose bolts in rudder assemblies. It also disclosed a separate issue with fuselages, which are produced by Spirit .

The 737 now faces heightened scrutiny following the 5 January in-flight blow-out of an Alaska Airlines’ 737 9’s door plug. Investigators and experts have pointed to manufacturing and quality troubles within Boeing as the cause of the incident, though the investigation remains ongoing.

In response, the FAA says it has significantly hiked its oversight of the 737 programme, including by prohibiting Boeing from expanding production of the jet.

Boeing’s full-year loss was also driven by Boeing Defense, Space & Security, which ended 2023 $1.8 billion in the red – improved from its $3.5 billion 2022 operating loss.

Boeing’s fourth-quarter 2023 results do show improvement. It lost $30 million in that period, compared to a $663 million loss in the fourth quarter of 2022.

Boeing Commercial actually swung to a $41 million operating profit in the last three months of 2023, after having lost $603 million in the fourth quarter of 2022. Boeing’s defence business lost $101 million in the last quarter of 2023, reversing its $112 million operating profit from the same period one year earlier.

The company’s other division – Boeing Global Services – posted a $3.3 billion operating profit in 2023, up 22% year on year, with revenue of $19.1 billion, up 9%.

Boeing also says it is not setting 2024 financial goals due to uncertainty with its 737 Max programme’s recovery.

“While we often use this time of year to share or update our financial and operational objectives, now is not the time for that,” says Calhoun. “We will simply focus on every next airplane while doing everything possible to support our customers, follow the lead of our regulator and ensure the highest standard of safety and quality in all that we do.”

He adds, “We still have every confidence in our recovery”.