When Boeing Co. ended a long commercial drought last month by handing over 737 Max jets to two top customers, the transactions marked a little-noticed break with tradition.
The planes were built in 2019 but recorded as 2020 models when they were delivered, having sat dormant during the longest jetliner grounding in U.S. history. The seemingly innocuous distinction could provide some financial relief for the beleaguered aerospace giant, which lobbied appraisers to accept the new approach.
Hundreds of Max jets valued at about $20 billion are poised for similar age-defying treatment as they emerge from storage lots to join the fleets of such carriers as American Airlines Group Inc. and United Airlines Holdings Inc. Their vintage will be based on when they’re delivered, even if that doesn’t happen for another year or two while air travel inches back from the coronavirus pandemic.
Such arcane details are crucial to Boeing’s campaign to restore a little luster to its best-selling plane, which was banned in March 2019 after two deadly crashes. A newer model year adds millions of dollars to appraisals, a critical boost for a jet fighting to regain its footing in a depressed aircraft market.
The company’s Max 8 planes have slipped below Airbus SE’s slightly smaller A320neo in value — a humbling setback for Boeing after decades in which the 737 commanded a premium.