Boeing Gets Closer to Delivering Its New Flagship, the 777X


The long-delayed 777X has long felt like something far off and irrelevant. I knew I’d pay attention to it eventually, but it was never top of mind. But when Emirates announced it was adding to its order for the 777X recently, I found myself going down a rabbit hole. Let’s talk about the 777X.

Image via Boeing

With the 747 put out to pasture, the 777X will be Boeing’s largest commercial airplane. More than a decade ago, Boeing put forth the 777X as a competitor to the higher end of the A350 family. The launch order came from Lufthansa in 2013 and while first flight occurred in 2020, delivery keeps being pushed back. It’s now pegged for 2025, a mere six years later than originally planned.

All that being said, 2025 isn’t that far off, if that date holds. So it seems like the right time to talk about this airplane.

The 777X will have 3 versions, the shorter 777-8, the freighter version 777-8F, and the longer 777-9.

Think of the -8 as a 777-300ER on steroids. It holds about the same number of passengers in a 2-cabin configuration — just shy of 400 — but it’s actually 10 feet shorter. It will still be 10-abreast in economy, so it must just have more usable length or better-placed monuments that allow for more seating. The cabin is apparently something like 4 inches wider, so there’s a tiny bit more room there, but not much.

The steroids come in thanks to the new wing and engine technology. While the 777-300ER posts a 7,730nm range, the 777-8 will come in at 8,745nm. There aren’t that many ultra long-haul routes that need that much airplane, but it will give airlines the option instead of just relying on the 787 as they must today.

The -8 is also the closest match to the Airbus A350-1000, Airbus’s flagship now that the A380 is dead. The A350-1000 is 10 feet longer than the 777-8, but it has lower typical capacity — around 370 — since it will usually fly with 9-abreast. Range is similar to the 777-8 with the A350-1000 coming in at 8,700nm.

The 777-8 may fly long, but the 777-9 is long. That airplane will add 30 seats to the 777-8’s capacity to hit 426 in a typical 2-cabin configuration. To do this, the airplane adds 20 feet in length (10 longer than the 777-300ER/A350-1000) and sees range drop to 7,285nm which is very close to what the 777-300ER has.

Unsurprisingly, it’s the 777-9 that has captured the attention of most airlines. Of the 453 aircraft on order, only 43 are for the -8 (from Emirates and Etihad) while 55 are for the -8F and 355 are for the -9. This makes perfect sense. The 777-300ER is a similar, great airplane that is going to be a lot cheaper to purchase than a -8. The extra benefit of the 777-8 is that long range, which is not something that is needed all that often. It’s the 777-9 that should be the rock star, at least for those airlines that can support a big airplane like that.

Because of the size of the airplane, it’s no surprise that the 777-9 orderbook looks a lot like the A380 orderbook. You’ll find ANA, British Airways, Emirates, Etihad, Lufthansa, Qatar, and Singapore on both lists. The only airlines that fly the A380 today that haven’t ordered the 777-9 are Asiana, Korean, and Qantas.

In addition to those airlines that also ordered the A380, Boeing has locked down Air India for 10 and Cathay Pacific for 21 777-9s. The prospects for the 777-9 are certainly better than for the A380 thanks to four main reasons.

  • The 777-9 is a single deck aircraft that doesn’t require special boarding facilities to load from multiple decks.
  • The 777-9 single deck means it seats about 150 fewer people in a typical configuration so has more utility in an airline’s network.
  • The 777-9 can hold about 1,000 cu ft more cargo than the A380. It holds more LD3 containers as well.
  • The 777-9 has a unique foldable wingtip so it will be able to taxi around with just under 213′ of wingspan, low enough to make it a Cat V aircraft. It extends to 235’5″ for takeoff. The A380, meanwhile, is at 261’8″ making it a Cat VI aircraft which is much harder to manuever around most airports.

With those foldable wingtips, the 777X will be able to operate anywhere the 777-300ER can fly today. This makes it a much easier proposition for airlines to bring into their fleets.

All this being said, the 777X is still a very big airplane. There were 880 777-300ERs ordered, so you can imagine many of those will be replaced eventually. And of course, there is plenty of opportunity to replace the A380s with the -9, just as Emirates is doing. Whether the 777-8 has much success remains to be seen, but it does fill a gap in the product line.

In the end, what we’ll have is the two widebody types offered by Boeing. The 787 spans from 242 seats in a typical configuration on the -8 up to 330 seats on the -10, easily covering the market that the 777-200 used to cover. Then the 777-8 kicks in at 395, topping out at 426 on the -9.

I imagine that some additional airlines remain interested, but they need to see this airplane in action — and probably see the price come down — before they commit. Even with some reticence, the 777X has already pulled in 200 more orders than the A380 ever did. This airplane is going to be a winner for those big markets that need a lot of seats.

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19 comments on “Boeing Gets Closer to Delivering Its New Flagship, the 777X

  1. Other than a competitive pricing, Brett, what do you think would convince US carriers to order the 777-X?

    1. Bobber – I imagine it’s really a function of time more than anything. Both American and United have pretty new 777-300ERs, so there isn’t really a need to replace them for some time. And it’s likely not happening for Delta since it is such an Airbus lover. It seems to only order Boeing if there’s an opportunity for a cheap deal, and this wouldn’t be it.

      1. Gotcha, thanks Brett. UA still pretend to consider their A350 order (that they’re failing to get rid of the engines for) as potential 773 replacements, but I think my quest to fly on that type will require a different Star Alliance member.

  2. Sounds nice, but will captain Over be able to fly it? And what about Roger Merdoch with his long legs & all, will he be able to fit into the cockpit?

  3. It is great to see Boeing beginning to move its projects to completion. Getting the MAX 7 and 10 certified and in service will have a far greater impact on more US airlines than the 777X but the 777X is important for Boeing on many levels including financial.
    It is more significant that the 777X has been chosen by no passenger airlines in the western hemisphere and, unless Delta surprises us all w/ an unexpected announcement for the 777X as part of its long-expected but even more delayed widebody fleet announcement, that track record will be unchanged for the near term.
    The 777-9 will be a high capacity twin but also be 50,000 lbs heavier than the A350-1000 because the 777X is a hybrid new technology carbon fiber/aluminum aircraft while the A350, like the B787 is more than half carbon fiber. Boeing gets around that by adding more seats – and that makes the 777X less attractive.
    The 777X’s greatest advantage is that it is powered by GE engines which have been the most reliable of the big 3 (including Pratt and Rolls) on all airframes where they compete; it is the durability of the Rolls engines on the A350, esp. the -1000, that is holding back sales of Airbus biggest twin.
    The A350 is flying and keeps getting enhanced so the airframe and even the engines are known and are providing good data for potential buyers.
    There seems to be no shortage of demand for new airplanes so will be happy to see the 777X become certified and in-service. It would be good for the 777X NOT to be the first Boeing model not to be operated by a US airline.

    1. 777x will fill many slots that the a380 cannot.airports are expensive to build and land is hard to find the 777x is a big answer to that issue

  4. This is a completely irrational argument, but I am nervous about folding wing parts. Osprey’s seem to be not very reliable. Boeing does not have a great track record with innovative tech being reliable (*cough* 787 *cough*). I don’t know… I am sure time will tell and testing has been rigorous by the time it takes off. But I don’t particularly like the idea of it…

    1. I had the same thought, the cynic in me gets nervous lately whenever Boeing – once the global gold standard for engineering excellence – designs something more complicated than a ham sandwich.

      Seriously, though, is it possible that a malfunction inflight could result in the wingtip coming unlocked and moving in flight, and would that movement be dangerous (to the wingtip itself, if nothing else?)

      1. That’s a good question.

        It’s worth noting that the 777X failed its wing stress test in 2019… I’d love to know what changes and tests have been done since then.

        1. From what it looks like, the default setting will be with wingtips deployed. Hence the more likely ‘malfunction’ will be that the wingtips won’t fold in on the runway and you will be stuck before being able to taxi to the gate.

          Aerodynamically however, given the limited size and span of those wingtips, any sudden retraction of the wingtips won’t have an enormous effect other than slightly reducing the range and increasing the drag of the aircraft.

          Finally from a maintenance perspective one could say that the more moving parts that are added, the more work that needs to be done. When it comes to a track record on quality and the reference to recent endeavours (looking at you 787), Collins better do their homework properly this time around, if their still part of the game at all…

  5. I.This Article is certainly a big plug for Boeing and its revised 777 , let’s start from the beginning , the new 8 & 9 are revisions of the old Aircraft with a new Fibre Optic Wing and New Engines, but that still leaves the Aircraft some 45 tonnes heavy than its rival , The Airbus A.350 900 &1,000.
    Even in it existing format it is a huge challenger and with Rolls Royce waiting in the wings with its new Ultrafan Engine and a possible stretch from Airbus I will still put my Money on Airbus to come out on top in the end.

  6. Can anybody explain to me how the 777-9 is 20 ft longer but only adds 30 seats? At 10 per row, that’s only 3 rows. Even with a very generous 3ft of seat pitch, that only adds up to 9 of the 20ft – what are the other 11ft doing? Is it that more of the space goes to biz class or premium economy?

  7. “ It’s now pegged for 2025, a mere six years later than originally planned.”

    Is it just me, or are new aircraft projects in recent decades always seeing significant delays? (and not just aircraft…. also airports *cough* BER *cough*). Did the 747 or 767 projects see similar delays? If not, it almost almost seems like we have lost the ability to properly plan, estimate and execute large projects… and learn from previous experiences.

    1. Oliver – It has gotten much slower, but a lot of that is self-inflicted.
      The MAX disaster caused the certification process to grow much longer and overbearing. It was FAA’s natural overreaction to being told it was too “in bed” with the manufacturers.

  8. Sure to be a nice aircraft but would prefer to travel on the 787 or 350 as it has the much nicer 3-3-3 seating. Also can airlines please consider NON reclinable seats so we don’t have to put with selfish idiots who recline their seats right back without consideration of passengers behind (a reclined seat is not really much more comfortable anyway)

  9. So she looks like an attractive beast, the -9 that is. However given that she is an evolved 777-300ER and is pegged to go head-to-head with the (partially) composite A350-900 and -1000, how do payload/range compare between both? The 777-9 looks interesting on paper, but how does that range do on a 93%+ Pax and 70%+ Cargo load factor?

    1. One Trippe – I don’t think we’re closer enough to know how well the actual performance will be and whether it will live up to what’s advertised.

  10. All the coughing is not a endorsement of the current aircraft industry
    What ever happened to “Boeing builds better bombers?”

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