The Boeing 797 NMA – What’s On The Cards For 2020?

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The Boeing 797 is rumored to be the new aircraft under development at Boeing, designed to fill the infamous ‘middle of the market gap’. But will it finally be revealed in 2020? Or has this project been put on the back burner? Read on to see our three predictions for the program.

Boeing 797
The 797 is still rumored to be under development at Boeing  Photo: Dj’s Aviation via Youtube

What do we know so far?

So far, the rumored specs of the two Boeing 797 models are:

  • 797-6 will be able to seat 228 passengers and fly a range of 4,500nm (8,300km)
  • 797-7 which would seat 267 passengers and fly a range of 4,200nm range (7,700km)

The smaller 797-6 will be used for less dense, long-range routes; routes that are currently served by expensive large widebody aircraft that are hardly ever full (for example, Maui to San Diego).

The bigger 797-7 will be perfect for heavier routes that need a lot of frequency (think of a flight leaving every 10 minutes between destinations) such as Sydney to Melbourne (the second most dense route in the world). An airline operating a fleet of Boeing 797-7s would be able to price their tickets cheaper than those operating 737s and A320s.

Boeing 767
The Boeing 797 will be about the same size as the Boeing 767 but will have a shorter range. Photo: Boeing.

What market is the Boeing 797 made for?

The Boeing 797 is made for what is known as the middle of the market.

This is a special range of 200-250 passengers operating on dense, short-haul routes. These routes are currently flown by Boeing 737s and 757s, and airlines need a way to carry as many passengers as possible without having to deploy bigger aircraft like domestic 777s and A330s.

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However, this market is very quickly shrinking thanks to Airbus…

What might happen in 2020?

There are three predictions that I could make about the Boeing 797 program for 2020.

Thanks to the launch of the new Airbus A321XLR, airlines looking for a long-range Boeing 757 replacement are well taken care of by Airbus. To put the specs up against one another:

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  • A321XLR can carry 220 seats to a range of 8,700 nmi.
  • Boeing 797-6 can carry 228 passengers to a range of 8,500 nmi

The Airbus A321XLR is more flexible for routes with its longer range, and it can carry around the same passengers… and more importantly, it exists.

A321XLR infographic
The A321XLR was not part of the plan… yet. Photo: Airbus

Thus, I’d suggest that any customers who wanted the 797 for smaller capacity long-range routes are buying the XLR, as they would get it far sooner than a 797. And they really are ordering the type in bulk.

As for the bigger 797-7 with its greater passenger capacity, we only need to look at the A330-800neo. As in, the lack of sales for the A330-800neo in particular.

The A330-800neo fills the upper mission profile of the 797-7 (although likely for a much higher price) but is not very popular at all with airlines. Therefore I’d predict that Boeing is reluctant to offer this aircraft, especially when they could just encourage airlines to buy the cheaper and slightly better Boeing 787-8 instead.

Air Greenland
Air Greenland may be the only airline to order for the A330-800neo in 2019. Photo:

Lastly, we need to talk about background changes at Boeing. With the Boeing 737 MAX disaster having serious repercussions for the short-haul line, Boeing might scrap the 797 program to make a new version of the 737 instead. With a new CEO, the project might take a back seat to try and fix the inherent flaws with the 737 program that actually has a large customer base, as opposed to a new aircraft which may not have a market at all.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments.

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