Boeing CEO tries to smooth over tensions with airline chiefs after saying a US carrier ‘likely’ to go bust

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Dave Calhoun, Chairman of Boeing

Adam Jeffery | CNBC

Boeing‘s CEO Dave Calhoun has spoken some airline CEOs in recent days to try to smooth over tensions with some of its biggest customers after he told NBC’s “TODAY” show that a U.S. carrier will “likely” go out of business as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, according to people familiar with the matter.

A high-ranking airline executive at United complained to Calhoun about the comment, according to people familiar with the matter. American‘s CEO Doug Parker was also upset about the Boeing CEO’s comment, a person familiar with the matter said.

When asked whether the pandemic, which has devastated air travel demand, would force a major U.S. airline out of business, Calhoun told the “TODAY” show in an interview that aired Tuesday: “I don’t want to get too predictive on that subject, but yes, most likely.”

U.S. airline executives say the industry is facing it’s worst-ever crisis as the pandemic drives down travel demand and forces them to park thousands of jetliners and warn about potential job cuts.

The calls with airline executives aimed to put Calhoun’s comments into context about the challenges facing the industry in general, according to a person familiar with the matter.

“We’ve had long standing personal relationships with the airlines and they’re highly valued customers,” a Boeing spokesman said. “We will all get through this current pandemic and be stronger in the end.”

The Wall Street Journal earlier reported that some airline executives were upset about Calhoun’s comments.