Boeing sees 2020 as challenging as any year in recent past

Boeing says it is freezing hiring and restricting employees' travel because of the new virus outbreak

Boeing is painting a sobering picture for its business in 2020.

It said it received 18 orders last month for new large planes, but 46 orders were canceled, most of them for the grounded 737 Max, leaving the company with a net loss of 28 orders in February.

Boeing is also restricting employees' travel and discretionary spending and limiting overtime to work on getting the Max back in flight.

Shares of Boeing Co. were down more than 15% in afternoon trading. They have plunged 55% in just over a year.

The warning about 2020 is a strong statement considering that Boeing is facing its biggest crisis in decades after two deadly crashes involving Max jets and just posted its first full-year loss since 1997.

Indeed, 2020 is off to an ominous start for Boeing. It reported no orders for new commercial planes in January while rival Airbus racked up 274 orders. Boeing’s 18 orders in February were all for so-called widebody or twin-aisles jets — larger planes that are typically used for long flights.

The company delivered 30 planes in the first two months of the year compared with 95 a year earlier, before it halted shipments of Max jets. Boeing depends on deliveries to generate cash flow.

Airlines, however, are retrenching to survive a sharp downturn in travel — they are unsure how long it will last.

The three largest U.S. airlines — Delta, American and United — and several international carriers have announced deep cuts to their schedules. The International Air Transport Association, an airline trade group, estimates that the virus could cost airlines up to $113 billion in lost revenue, with the biggest losses in Asia, whose fast-growing airlines were on a buying spree for new jets.