Boeing is back on U.S. President Donald Trump’s mind.
At a breakfast Wednesday with the chief executives of major technology companies in Davos, Trump spoke at length about technology making things more complicated, according to four people familiar with the conversation who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe private discussions.
As an example, he invoked Boeing, which is reeling from the biggest crisis in its history following the grounding of its 737 Max after two accidents that killed 346 people. Trump said that the 737 was a good airplane before, but that too much software had messed it up. New software developed for the Max was found to have played a role in both crashes, in late 2018 and early 2019.
His remarks echoed thoughts he shared on Twitter just days after the second Max crash, when he said, “Airplanes are becoming far too complex to fly.”
Trump, who was attending the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, also added that automobiles had become too complex, complaining that it used to be easier to recline seats.
His remarks came a day after Boeing told airlines that it did not expect regulators to approve the Max to fly until June or July. It was the latest setback in a cascading crisis that has caused the Max to be grounded since March, led to the temporary shutdown of the 737 factory and resulted in the ouster of Boeing’s chief executive.
Later Wednesday, Trump brought up Boeing again, calling it a “very disappointing company” in an interview on CNBC. He cited Boeing as one of the reasons the economy didn’t perform better in 2019.
“This is one of the great companies of the world, let’s say as of a year ago, and then all of a sudden things happen,” he said. “I am so disappointed in Boeing.”
The 737 Max crisis “had a tremendous impact,” Trump said. “You know, when you talk about growth, it’s so big that some people say it’s more than a half a point of GDP. So Boeing – big, big disappointment to me. Big disappointment.”
Trump has long been fixated on Boeing. Even before he was inaugurated, he was complaining about the cost of Air Force One planes, which Boeing makes. In the days after the second Max crash, he spoke with Boeing’s then-chief executive, Dennis Muilenburg, who assured him the plane was safe.
Late last year, as Boeing prepared to announce that it was shutting down the 737 factory, Trump called Muilenburg again to inquire about the company’s health.
“Many of our stakeholders are rightly disappointed in us, and it’s our job to deliver on our commitments and rebuild their trust,” Boeing said in a statement Wednesday. “We’re fully focused on the safe return to service of the 737 Max, and we’re taking action across the company to strengthen our safety culture, improve transparency and re-earn the trust of our customers, regulators, government leaders, suppliers and the public.”
At a news conference just before leaving Davos, Trump brought up Boeing for at least the third time in the day. When asked if he had a timetable for a trade deal with the European Union, Trump said he did not and then began talking about the rivalry between Airbus and Boeing, which helped lead to a round of tariffs against European goods last year.
Trump said Airbus, Boeing’s chief rival, “is doing better than ever because Boeing has not had a good time of it,” adding that Boeing “better start recovering fast.”
“I hope they do,” Trump said. “They have some good people in there now. They have great people in the company, but they have some good people leading it now, so hopefully that’ll be taken care of.”