The first delivery of Boeing’s brand new 777X had already been delayed by a year prior to the current pandemic. Several days ago I wrote about how it looked like that timeline could be pushed back by another year, and that has today been confirmed during Boeing’s second quarter earnings call.
What is the Boeing 777X?
For those of you not familiar, the Boeing 777X is Boeing’s newest version of the 777. It will come in two variants — the 777-8 and 777-9 — and the planes are both longer range and larger than existing 777s (and also larger than 787s, which are also popular).
With there clearly not being a market anymore for planes like the A380 and 747-8 (even pre-pandemic), this will likely be the biggest new aircraft we see manufactured in the next decade.
The Boeing 777X has already been delayed
Entry into service for the Boeing 777X has already been delayed significantly. The plane was supposed to complete its first test flight in mid-2019, but that ended up being pushed back to early 2020.
This delay was due to issues with the GE9X General Electric engines on the plane. These are the largest engines ever on a commercial plane, though they were having durability problems, causing a delay in certification.
That wasn’t the only issue, though — during the 777X certification process, a door also blew off during a stress test.
Rendering of Lufthansa Boeing 777-9
Boeing’s first 777X delivery won’t happen until 2022
Boeing is now targeting the first 777X delivery to occur in 2022. Boeing expects to start 777X production in 2021, though plans to reduce the combined 777/777X production rate to two per month for the year, which is one unit lower than was planned as of last quarter.
Boeing’s plans to delay 777X deliveries seemingly aren’t due to any issues with the plane, but rather due to complete lack of demand from customers.
Presumably aircraft manufacturers and airlines are having a lot of tough conversations right now. Ultimately there’s not much value in ramping up production if airlines won’t willingly take delivery of these planes.
Beyond just lack of demand, it also goes without saying that we could still see further 777X delays for other reasons. The 777X will be the first major new plane certified since the current Boeing 737 MAX fiasco, so I’d expect the plane will get extra scrutiny from regulators.
Emirates has Boeing 777-9s on order
Why we should care as passengers
Understandably airlines have more important priorities than passenger experience right now, though I still feel like it’s necessary to mention one of the often overlooked implications of a further Boeing 777X delay.
Many airlines were going to use the 777X as their new flagship aircraft, and were going to introduce all new cabins on these planes. For example:
- Emirates will be installing its new first class on the 777X, which is otherwise only available on fewer than a dozen 777-300ERs (unfortunately Emirates’ 777X business class is a disappointment)
- Cathay Pacific will be introducing an all new first & business class on the 777X, though the airline hasn’t revealed the details, and is reportedly trying to renegotiate its 777X order
- Singapore Airlines is expected to debut a new first class on the 777X
- Lufthansa will be debuting its new business class on the 777X (yes, that business class product that won the company a Skytrax award back in 2017)
Initially we were supposed to see many of these new cabins in 2020, then 2021, and now it will be 2022, or maybe even later.
Lufthansa’s new business class, debuting on the 777-9
Boeing doesn’t expect to deliver its first 777X until 2022 at the earliest. Boeing seemingly realizes that ramping up production of this plane during the current pandemic may be a futile effort.
Prior to this the plan was for 777X deliveries to start in 2021. It’ll be interesting to see how this unfolds, and if we see even further delivery delays.
Are you surprised to see Boeing push back 777X deliveries to 2022?