Uh Oh: Has Boeing Lost Over One-Third Of 777X Orders?

Filed Under: Misc.

This doesn’t sound good. Not for Boeing, and not for passengers who want a superior passenger experience. While I covered the basics of this yesterday, today I wanted to take a more in-depth look at which airlines might be canceling their 777X orders.

Has Boeing lost over 100 orders for the 777x?

It was recently announced that deliveries of the brand new Boeing 777X will be delayed until late 2023 at the earliest. This represents an additional two year delay over the previous plans, and an even more significant delay compared to the pre-pandemic timeline.

That might not be the only bad news for Boeing, though. The aircraft manufacturer has also revealed a massive reduction in the total order tally for the plane, based on new regulatory filings:

  • As of the end of 2020, Boeing has 191 confirmed orders for the 777X
  • A year prior, Boeing had 309 confirmed orders for the 777X

We’re talking about a reduction in confirmed orders of nearly 40% here. The tricky part is that we don’t actually know which airlines have canceled their orders, or at least which orders are in limbo:

  • Accounting rules require Boeing to remove planes from the backlog if there’s a significant risk of cancelations, so clearly this update either reflects concrete cancelations, or otherwise at least the risk of cancelations
  • Agreements between Boeing and airlines typically remain private as much as possible in terms of purchase price and terms; often cancelations are only revealed in regulatory filings, as we’re seeing here

Over 100 Boeing 777X orders are no longer certain

Which airlines are most likely to ditch the 777X?

All we can really do is speculate as to what’s going on. Generally speaking airlines have an “out” for an aircraft order if delivery of the plane is delayed significantly.

However, I get the sense that Boeing is delaying delivery of the 777X specifically because airlines aren’t in a position to take delivery of these planes right now (both in terms of finances and demand), so this doesn’t seem like your typical new aircraft delay. Assuming that’s the case, it wouldn’t seem that airlines have much of an excuse to cancel.

With that in mind:

  • Are airlines paying some amount to be able to cancel their 777X orders?
  • Are airlines swapping 777X orders for other planes, like the 787?
  • Are some airlines deferring delivery of the 777X so far into the future that Boeing doesn’t consider it a sure thing anymore?
  • Is Boeing worried about some airline customers staying in business long enough to be able to pay for the planes?

Last we heard, the Boeing 777X had the following nine airline customers:

  • All Nippon Airways
  • Cathay Pacific
  • British Airways
  • Emirates Airline
  • Etihad Airways
  • Lufthansa
  • Qatar Airways
  • Singapore Airlines
  • An unidentified buyer

Which airlines are most likely to be contributing to the reduction of 118 Boeing 777X orders? Here are the top contenders, as I view it (this is purely speculation on my part):

Etihad Airways

Etihad Airways has been reorganizing in recent years. The airline used to want to go head-to-head against Emirates, but lost billions of dollars in the process. Etihad is now trying to become more “boutique,” and focus on serving Abu Dhabi rather than having huge global aspirations.

Etihad has a huge number of airplanes on order, including 787s, 777Xs, A350s, etc. Etihad at one point had a total of 25 Boeing 777Xs on order. I assume Etihad is the airline least likely to actually take delivery of these planes.

Etihad has lots of Boeing 787s on order

Cathay Pacific

Cathay Pacific had 21 Boeing 777Xs on order, and going as far back as April 2020, we knew the airline was allegedly trying to cancel the order. Then in October 2020 we learned that Cathay Pacific was deferring delivery of 777Xs to “beyond 2025.”

At this point it sure doesn’t sound like a sure thing that Cathay Pacific will be getting 777Xs at all. This one particularly stings, given that Cathay Pacific was supposed to introduce an all new first & business class on the 777X. Furthermore, the A350 is otherwise Cathay Pacific’s new long haul aircraft, and those planes don’t feature first class.

Is there no future anymore for Cathay Pacific first class?

Are the days numbered for Cathay Pacific first class?

Unidentified buyer

An unidentified buyer had ordered 10 Boeing 777Xs. Since we know nothing else about this, I assume this order could very well be at risk.


Emirates is the world’s largest operator of the Boeing 777. The airline initially had 156 Boeing 777X planes on order, though that order has already been reduced. In November 2019, Emirates swapped some 777X orders for 787s, reducing the tally by 30 planes.

Since then, it has repeatedly been made apparent that Emirates wants to reduce its 777X orders even further. Bloomberg is now reporting that Emirates is considering swapping another 30-40 777Xs for 787s. We’ll see if this is already reflected in the reduced orders, or if this could be a further blow to the 777X. But it seems increasingly likely that Emirates may reduce the number of 777Xs on order.

Emirates has the most Boeing 777X aircraft on order

Bottom line

Boeing’s confirmed orders for the 777X have gone from over 300 to under 200, so that’s pretty major. Unfortunately we don’t officially know what we can attribute this to, so we can only speculate.

Personally I think the Cathay Pacific and Etihad orders are most in limbo, while a reduction in the Emirates order also seems highly likely.

As a passenger experience geek I’m sad to see any 777X orders be delayed or canceled, given that airlines were largely planning on introducing new premium products on this plane. For example, Lufthansa’s new business class is supposed to debut on the 777X. At the same time, I recognize that at this point the industry is just trying to survive.

What do you make of this reduction in confirmed 777X orders, and what airlines do you think are most likely to cancel?

  1. Having flown in the back of a 777 on UA from SFO to Auckland (3-4-3), I’d say these cancellations are totally fine with me… The returning 787 from Melbourne to LAX was a much better passenger experience in Y anyway.

  2. It would be wise to compare 787 orders on the same regulatory filings.

    If there’s a ~100 body boost between the two years, it seams reasonable some of the 777 orders converted to 787s.

    This wouldn’t surprise me; the 777X is a big plane, and right now, airlines aren’t too fond of large aircraft and it seems likely to stay that way for 2-3 years.

  3. Given the recent stock tanking over the 737MAX and news of problems re 787 construction, it seems prudent for Boeing to immediately identify the details:
    -what are the factors contributing to such an extensive multi-year delay?
    Is it a parts shortage, or, like with the 787 parts made everywhere that did not fit together?
    Is it related to a major new system not correctly functioning like 737MAX?

    Boeing needs to be front and center with the facts before becoming the next GameStop in the market.

    I’ll bet the EU partners are delighted they made the investment in that Alabama factory..?

  4. I wouldn’t buy a toaster from Embraer. In fairness though their toaster selection is pretty dire.

  5. @JW in GA

    I share your feelings. However, that is why it is sad to see the problems that the 777X is facing.

    The X shares the new design features of the 787 so that it will be an incredibly better ride than the old 777 variants. Or if not then a few heads should roll for sure. Just bigger won’t cut any mustard.

    I didn’t mind the ride on the A380 upper deck J but the 16 hr bottom deck Y was one of the very worst experiences ever.

    Hopefully the 777X will see production in Seattle.

  6. Boeing perfectly summarizes what’s wrong with corporate America — and being part of a duopoly (at least for the civil aviation industry) doesn’t make the situation any better.

  7. According to Leeham New: The 118 reduction are 21 Etihad, 25 Cathay Pacific, 62 Emirates and 10 form unknown customer…

  8. Why is it bad for passengers ? The A 350-1000 is a perfectly pleasant aircraft to fly in, and apparently subject to far less drama. Most, if not all of the 777-9 clients have them in their fleet or on order and the extra seats in the 777 will be redundant for a good many years.

  9. I repeat, from my previous note years ago. This swing wing will never fly commercially. Testing an empty plane is quite different from putting it into service.

    It’s a botch to get over the (Boeing 747) imposed “envelope” and max wingspan.

    What goes around, comes around.

  10. I think the 777X will be to Boeing what the A380 was to Airbus. Too much plane at the wrong time. The 787 and A350 is where it’s at, they are perfectly sized for the times. Of the 2 the A350 is my choice by very long way, as a passenger. Before Covid I went out of my way to fly on an A350, even if it meant taking a connecting flight. The A350 passenger experience is so much better than the 787 and I trust Airbus a helluvalot more than Boeing at this point.

  11. You guys have some weird taste in toasters. Aerospace-grade aluminum is bit of na overkill on a device that toast bread IMO.

  12. This reminds me of Betamax vs VHS

    In 2020 I flew all variants of the A350 and 787. By far the 787 was the better ride.

    787 cabin altitude, cabin air and the smooth ride technology more than compensated for the slightly wider cabin of the A350.

    For me it’s all about arriving in good shape.

  13. @Azamaraal
    I did the same and came to the opposite conclusion: the A350 is, for me, far superior to the 787. It’s both roomier and quieter.

    And it doesn’t have those incredibly irritating window shades where I suddenly discover on a daytime flight that some FA has made mine dark, *and* turned off my ability to lighten it. I feel like some stupid kid in a nursery school where they insist it’s time for a mid-day nap…

    But both are better than the current crop of old-style 777s. I wonder in the post-Covid world if the new 777 is just too big, especially as 1st class cabins seem to be disappearing.

  14. @AlanT98: Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines have announced delays for the entry into service of the 777X into their fleets – 2025 for CX and 2024 for SQ – so it seems they will still be flying the aircraft. SQ’s new first class is supposed to debut on the 777X as well.

  15. @The nice Paul
    Bad news for you, Airbus has signed a contract with the supplier of the dimmable windows. Future A350 may have this feature too if the airline customer choose to buy it.

    A350 has at least the same cabin pressure/altitude if not even better. And it also flies smoother than the 787. Only advantage of the 787 is the air supply by electric compressor instead of bleed-air.

  16. The post had nothing to do with a comparison. Leave the comparisons out of the post. This is becoming a iphone vs android debate, which continues to be a bore.

  17. @ Chris
    I disagree. The 380 was a new airframe that had stupendous design costs, the 777X is a modified design, not from scratch.
    There will always be routes that will be able to fill a larger aircraft, alternatively there is more weight capacity for freight. freight in the belly will become more important as flight frequency declines.

  18. @THE Nice Paul

    I think you have hit the nail directly on the head. It is very subjective and I have a different view than you.

    Those who value the extra 1″ of space per J seat, supposedly quieter environment and the ability to shine sunlight on everyone in the cabin would prefer the A350 – although seat comfort and space is much more seat design than the extra total of 5 inches cabin width:

    Model Airbus A350-1000 Boeing 787-10
    Cabin width 5.61 m / 18 ft 5 in 5.49 m / 18 ft 0 in

    Those who like the extra humidity control, lack of bleed air and effective cabin air pressure would prefer the 787. I always arrive in better shape on the 787.

    The “ride” is definitely subjective. But the ability of the cabin crew to dim the direct sunlight flooding the cabin because someone wants to see the clouds for 10 hours over the north pacific is invaluable. It is not a ‘right’ for one person to destroy the flight of 10 passengers just cause they want to see the clouds. Ability of flight crew to dim the lights of a transgressor is the best way to avoid conflict in the cabin. I had a Seoul – YVR flight where the person on the window opposite left it open and the sun hit me in the face and glare blocked the screen. For 10 hours. The cabin crew instructed the passenger to lower the shade no less than 5 times and the shade went down for 5 minutes then back again. The passenger SLEPT the entire flight with the shade up. Ability to control the glare is paramount for me.

    So I do think the 777X will be a winner and hope that it arrives before I no longer fly.

  19. @RT Flyer

    Ben’s review stated he prefers the A350 because

    – tail camera
    – economy seating
    – traditional (smaller?) windows
    – quieter

    Quieter might be a factor. Camera is interesting for 5 minutes. Used to have them on A340. So? Some airlines serve Krug – but like the camera is an airline choice.

    Don’t fly Y unless I have a really bad day. (Guaranteed)

    Hate windows that others can blind me with.

    Ben says J is 9 dB quieter. I own and use Bose 35. So who cares?

    The air is better at FL38 on the 787 in my totally unbiased view ;-}

    Arriving refreshed – priceless!

  20. Missed in this conversation is that the cut in orders is highly related to the restructuring of the global airline industry that absolutely will take place as a result of covid.
    The Middle East airlines were all living off of enormous demand and a willingness to fly out of the way to get good service at low fares.
    It is far from clear how much business travel there will be in a few years – but the chances are very high that the legacy carriers in Europe and Asia as well as in the U.S. will take the opportunity to do a hard reset of their business models to not allow traffic to spill as they did before. They have the capacity available to deploy now.

    The 777X is a variant of a very successful aircraft but one which is just too large for many airlines; Boeing had to make it big to offset the fuel burn advantage that the A350 has by being a new generation aircraft. It is precisely the smaller 787 that has those advantages.

    Boeing might be in a different position with the 777X if they tested and delivered faster – but they were facing too many other crises.

    Like the A330NEO, there was relatively low risk in developing the 777X. Boeing can and will keep it on plenty warm on the back burner and sell it when they can.

    Their priority now is focusing on a true competitor to the A321NEO esp. from longer routes as well as a true 767 replacement.

  21. It’s probably too soon to tell how much long haul business travel will return and when. Those predicting 2019 levels returning by 2023 could be off by a huge margin. I wouldn’t write off the new 777 aircraft while the global pandemic is still raging.

    As for the 787 vs the A350, I’ve flown both in J and would be hard pressed to choose a favorite, as they were both amazing. This is coming from someone who routinely flew TADL flights on first generation 747s with smoking sections back in the late 80s as a young woman in my early 20s. I always arrived at my destination with bloodshot eyes, bad sinuses, lungs that hurt for two full days afterwards and clothing that smelled like filthy ashtrays. If you want to judge wide body aircraft on air quality, any modern wide body plane is amazingly decent compared to what came before even if you factor out the smoking problems.

  22. @Mark
    Be assured that there wiil be no 100 body boost for the 787. Boeing has been ramping down 787 capacity 4 times in less than two years. And you can get the 37 Norwegian 787 at a bargain.

  23. @Ben does this mean that Lufthansa forfeits they Skytrack (or whatever the hell it is award) for their “new” business class?

  24. @Die.Are.E
    No, Lufthansa will get an additional 6th star from SkyTrax as the new Business Class will be ‘Vintage’ when it finally gets introduced.
    As with Champagne, the ‘Vintage’ designation will further increase its value.

  25. @The nice Paul

    A380 J & F have electric blinds, crew controlled.

    A350 I’m not sure…. anyone know?

  26. The 777X is the aircraft that nobody asked for.

    Customers want comfortable cruise-ship VLAs like the A380 and B747-8.

    Airlines want the economical A350 and B787.

    Anyone wants a over-sized outdated twin-engine on steroids?… Didn’t think so.

  27. I don’t think carbon composites are a good material of choice for toasters. Although they could be marketed as extra light for the casual traveler who needs to bring their toaster with them wherever they go!

  28. The 787 is my choice – even over the A350. Something about a particular high frequency humming on board the A350 which makes me feel sick. I also feel considerably fresher after a journey on the 787 than the 350, despite them having a similar inner environment.

  29. Does anyone know what Boeing, Airbus and Embraer are charging for their toasters? I’m in the market for one.

  30. Toasters, LOL.
    Just sayin, this reminds me of my first solo trip trans Atlantic. Reservations were near impossible because the DC-10 was grounded. I had a multi leg trip and my luggage didn’t arrive on my flight. Imagine reporting to an older SR (Swissair) manager that my lost luggage contained a toaster oven and, YES, money. The gentleman turned many shades of red and white.
    The money was USD 80 in Travelers checks. The toaster was for a Great Aunt that lived near Gare Du Nord in Paris and that area was unique in running 120V/60 cycles ( really, not a mistake) so they needed to import toasters from the USA. The area later went 220.

  31. Black woman receives “African American service charge” after American Airlines flight

    has this been addressed?

  32. @Marco

    I have to agree with you somewhat. I love the 747-8. I just wish it was possible to re-engine the Queen with two of the new high thrust engines. The re-do of the wings went part way.

    In my minds eye I sometimes visualize a 747 with ONE of the largest bypass engines mounted somewhat like the space shuttle on top of the fuselage. (I know – it would never work ;-( )

    Given what happened to the 737 I don’t see Boeing going down the new engine route sadly.

    The 747 was perfect in every way. The A380 is a thirsty overweight dog with no cargo so was only a virtue signal when the 747 ended its days. What a terrible mistake paid for by all the European subsidy money under the table. But some of the technology was useful for the A350 design.

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