Employees work on Boeing 737 MAX airplanes at the Boeing Renton Factory in Renton, Washington on March 27, 2019.

Jason Redmond | AFP | Getty Images

Boeing on Wednesday told employees that it was immediately suspending hiring and implementing other measures to preserve cash as the rapid spread of coronavirus roils the air travel industry.

Boeing is already reeling from the damage of two fatal crashes of its 737 Max and the worldwide grounding of the planes, which hits the one-year mark on Friday.

“On top of the work of safely returning the 737 MAX to service and the financial impact of the pause in MAX production, we’re now facing a global economic disruption generated by the COVID-19 coronavirus,” Boeing’s CEO Dave Calhoun and CFO Greg Smith wrote in a note to employees on Wednesday.

The company is laying off workers at this time, a Boeing official told CNBC.

The company will also limit travel and discretionary spending as well as employee overtime tied to the 737 Max’s return-to-service “other key efforts in support of our customers,” said the company.

Boeing is facing other challenges, including an increase in cancellations over new orders for its commercial planes, which generate the majority of the company’s revenue. Earlier Wednesday, it reported net cancellations, including for several 737 Max planes in February.

“Even as we take these steps to protect the business, we ask you to double down on the work you’re doing to improve safety and first-time quality in everything that we do,” they wrote in the memo.

“In the meantime, you’ll hear from us often through this uncertain period ahead,” they added. “We’ll be clear about the challenges. And we’ll be transparent as we consider additional affordability measures. Your respective functional and business leaders will share more information on these steps shortly.”

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