Will Boeing Build A 777X Freighter?

When it comes to the fierce and long-standing rivalry between Boeing and Airbus, it’s well known among aviation enthusiasts that Boeing remains the winner in the freighter and cargo market. The US manufacturer has done well with sales of its 747 and 777 variants. So, with the 747 program soon coming to an end, and an updated line of 777s on the way, can we expect to see a 777X freighter?

The Boeing 777-9 has 8% more belly-hold cargo capacity than the present generation of the 777-300ER. Photo: Boeing

Where things stand now: Boeing remains silent

According to Freight Waves, when it comes to cargo operations, there are no official plans for a freighter version of the 777X as yet. Boeing remains focused on getting its first 777X variant, the 777-9, into passenger service, which already appears to be two years behind schedule.

And when it comes to its current offering, there are currently 43 unfulfilled orders for the 777F. DHL, FedEx, and Qatar Airways are among the notable customers. The cargo market is also supported by the 767-300F, of which Boeing has 54 unfulfilled orders- 43 of those will go to FedEx. Finally, the 747-8F has 15 unfulfilled orders, with 12 going to UPS.

Will Boeing Build A 777X Freighter?
UPS is waiting to take delivery of another 12 747-8F throughout the next two years. Photo: Getty Images

None of these backlogs are enormous. With the 747-8 program coming to an end and the 777X on the horizon, why haven’t we heard much from Boeing on the freighter side?

One good hint

Five years ago, we did get just one small tidbit of information alluding to a 777X freighter. In marketing material from 2015, Boeing discussed a possible full-cargo version based on the 777-8 airframe. Here’s what the ‘brochure’ said:

“A freighter version is being considered using the -8X airframe and may be available 18-24 months after the -8X enters service.”

Boeing 777X
The Boeing 777-8 is the smaller variant of the 777X program. While it will have a lower capacity, its range and efficiency will be higher as a result. Photo: Boeing

Support from customers

There is support from airlines too. At the Paris Air Show in 2019, Qatar Airways expressed its desire for a 777X freighter to be made available, along with its willingness to be the launch customer for it. Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker explained saying:

“By 2025, our initial freighters will be getting about 10 years old, so we will need to replace them…Hopefully, Boeing will launch a 777X-based freighter. I hope that Boeing will do what the customer wants, so it will have more efficient freighters. We would also like to be the launch customer, because of the confidence we have in Boeing.”

Qatar Airways 777F
Qatar Airways currently has five 777F jets on order. Photo: Boeing

It seems like an obvious move

Boeing already dominates the cargo market, with the 777 and 747 freighter versions. A logical continuation would be to do so for the 777X, with all of its engine and efficiency benefits.

There is certainly space in the market. In fact, Boeing claims that an additional 1,040 widebody freighters will be needed in the coming 20 years.

Boeing 777X Test Flight Getty Images
It would make sense for Boeing to make a freighter variant with the 777X in due time. Photo: Getty Images

While there are no guarantees that a 777X freighter will materialize, it seems almost inevitable. Here’s why we think so:

  • The 747-8F program will soon come to an end.
  • When it comes to passenger variants, the 777-200 and -300 programs will eventually wind down and give way to the production of the 777-9 and -8. Boeing would streamline its production lines by eliminating the 777F offering, replacing it with a 777-8F range.
  • Boeing already has decades of experience in producing freighters and freighter-variants of its passenger aircraft.

Thus, when it comes to the question “Will Boeing Build A 777X Freighter?” – the question isn’t if Boeing will do it, but rather a question of when Boeing will announce it. At least that’s our take on the subject.

Do you think a 777X freighter will materialize in the next five years? Or will Boeing just continue producing 767 and conventional 777 freighters? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.