Boeing says it will suspend production of the crisis-hit 737 Max jetliner in January, and will instead focus on delivering the 400 aircraft it had made since the model was grounded earlier this year.
The 737 Max model has been grounded worldwide since March following two deadly crashes that killed 348 people in Indonesia and Ethiopia, which investigators said were caused by flight-control software issues. Since then, national and international regulators have banned the jet from flying in their airspace although production of the jet has continued in the meantime.
In a statement released Monday, Boeing said it will now suspend production of the crisis-hit plane from January but will instead prioritise delivery of the backlog of the 400 aircraft it had made in the meantime, most of which are being held in desert storage or parked at airports.
"We have decided to prioritize the delivery of stored aircraft and temporarily suspend production on the 737 program beginning next month," Boeing said. "We believe this decision is least disruptive to maintaining long-term production system and supply chain health."
The US manufacturer said that it would not lay off staff at the 737 assembly plant in Renton, Washington, adding "it is our plan that affected employees will continue 737-related work, or be temporarily assigned to other teams in Puget Sound."
Boeing plays an important role in the US economy as the nation's largest manufacturing exporter and one of the top private employers. The Max is its best-selling plane and its grounding has cost the Chicago-based company billions of US dollars (estimates vary between 10 and 20).
Boeing had hoped to have the fleets back in the skies before the end of the year. But the company is waiting for the Federal Aviation Administration to approve its software fixes, along with international regulators. Flying is not expected to resume until February or March 2020 at the earliest.