By Scott Hamilton
Dec. 5, 2023, © Leeham News: Boeing and the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance have kissed and made up.
After a two-year boycott, Boeing returns this year as a sponsor to PNAA, a suppliers-oriented trade group, and to sponsor and provide speakers to its annual conference in February. Boeing abruptly withdrew from the organization and the conference in 2022, citing a sexual discrimination lawsuit that had been filed by one of its women employees against the then executive director, a male, and the male-dominated Board of Directors. However, PNAA’s staff was predominately women and women were represented on the Board. The lawsuit was settled for undisclosed terms.
Boeing’s stated reason for withdrawal was questioned by some familiar with the background. Additionally, there has long been an occasional tense relationship between PNAA and Boeing. Analysts and consultants who appeared as speakers or panelists long criticized Boeing for its Partnering for Success program, which some viewed as brow-beating suppliers into cutting prices.
The same panelists often criticized Boeing for its tense labor relations and product development, which had fallen behind Airbus’s aggressive strategy with its new engine option (neo) line of A320s and A330s. The critics included aerospace analyst Ron Epstein from Bank of America, consultants Michel Merluzeau, Richard Aboulafia, Kevin Michaels and this writer. There were occasional come-to-Jesus meetings after such conferences between Boeing and PNAA.
After Boeing boycotted PNAA’s 2022 conference at the last minute, suppliers attending that event commented in private in bewilderment at Boeing’s action. At the 2023 conference in February, Michaels, Aboulafia and Epstein ratcheted up their criticism at a small event hosted by the IAM 751—Boeing’s militant labor union–preceding the PNAA main event, and at the main event. Suppliers openly criticized Boeing’s absence.
All apparently has been forgiven between the two. Boeing’s marketing chief, Darren Hulst, will present Boeing’s commercial view of the world and its products. Supply chain chief Ihssane Mounir will discuss Boeing’s supply chain issues. A private, invitation-only event this month is also sponsored by Boeing.
A spokesperson said Boeing is happy to have returned to work with PNAA and to present at the conference. PNAA’s executive director is out of the country and wasn’t available for comment.
Michaels, Aboulafia and Epstein return as speakers. Merluzeau isn’t a speaker and this writer hasn’t been invited back as a speaker for years.
Ironically, as of today, Airbus—which also has appeared at the conference for years—so far isn’t listed on the agenda.