Qantas to Boeing: Um, thanks, but no thanks

Boeing (NYSE: BA) already has its share of self-created problems. Its new flagship, the 787 Dreamliner, has had its launch delayed five times, which continues to eat into the aircraft company's earnings.

The fall-out from the Dreamliner mess is spreading. The Wall Street Journal reports that the delay is hurting aircraft leasing companies. The paper says that they account for about one-sixth of the 787 orders. Whether they will start to cancel those orders is unclear.

One big Boeing customer has announced a very large cancellation. Qantas, Australia's flagship carrier, cut orders for 15 Dreamliners. The airline said that it was cutting its orders because of falling global demand for travel. Since some of the plans are not supposed to be delivered for several years, that excuse may be thin. Qantas may simply not want to build its fleet plans around a plane that Boeing cannot get out the door.

Boeing's financial fate now depends on how many other airlines cut orders. Its earnings could be undermined for years if the largest carriers in Asia and Europe start to look for alternatives to replace their aging fleets.

Douglas A. McIntyre is an editor at 24/7 Wall St.

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