U.S. airlines have not responded well to a suggestion from the Boeing CEO that a major airline would go out of business by the end of the year.
Speaking on NBC’s TODAY show earlier this week, Boeing CEO David Calhoun predicted that at least one major U.S. airline would not survive 2020.
“Well, I don’t want to get too predictive on that subject, but yes, most likely. Something will happen when September comes around.”
When pressed, he declined to identify which one, noting instead the general challenges the industry faces.
The Wall Street Journal reports that American Airlines and United Airlines were not happy with the interview.
“American Airlines Group Inc. CEO Doug Parker called the Boeing chief this week to express surprise and disappointment.”
United Airlines also voiced displeasure, though it is not clear who conveyed the message to Calhoun.
You would think that the Boeing CEO would simply offer a mea culpa for misspeaking…it happens to the best of us. After all, how does it make sense to speculate about the failure of your customers?
But an unnamed Boeing “senior executive” told the Wall Street Journal that Calhoun had received a “range of feedback” from airline leaders and was just “telling it like it is”:
“Some weren’t keen on his sobering assessment of industry challenges ahead, but others appreciated him telling it like it is. It’s in his nature to be frank.”
Yes, frankness is a commendable in certain circumstances, but in this case? I’m not sure how “telling it like it is” is really the case when you warn that one of your customers will go out of business by the end of the year without any proof and during a time they are trying to raise additional financial support.
I’m certainly not calling for Calhoun’s head due to one gaffe. But I find the defense of his words by a senior Boeing executive to be puzzling at best, dismaying at worst.