Boeing Co said on Monday it would suspend production of its best-selling 737 MAX jetliner in January, its biggest assembly-line halt in more than 20 years, as fallout from two fatal crashes of the now-grounded aircraft drags into 2020.
Boeing, which builds the 737 south of Seattle, said it would not lay off any of the roughly 12,000 employees there during the production freeze, though the move could have repercussions across its global supply chain and the U.S. economy.
The decision at a two-day board meeting came after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) refused to approve the jet’s return to service before 2020 and delivered what was seen as a public rebuff to Boeing’s hopes of moving faster.
The 737 MAX has been grounded since March after two crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia killed 346 people within five months, costing the plane manufacturer more than $9 billion so far.
The decision to halt production will have little immediate impact on airlines that have already seen deliveries halted, forcing many to cancel flights or lease older replacements.
But it marks a deepening of a crisis that has already seen Boeing’s fastest-selling jet grounded worldwide, its safety record scrutinized, customers pressing for compensation and its cornerstone relationship with the FAA placed under strain.