Boeing may be gearing up to announce a delay to the launch of its latest and greatest widebody jet. The 777X, a successor to the 777, is one of the crown jewels in Boeing’s portfolio. However, amid the current crisis, the planemaker may be looking to launch the jet at a more palatable time for air travel.
A delay to the 777X
Reuters reports that sources familiar with Boeing’s decision believe the manufacturer is getting ready to announce a delay to the 777X program amid a global downturn in travel demand. The goal is to get the 777X in the market once travel demand rebounds, and airlines require additional widebody capacity—which the 777X provides. An official announcement has not been made yet, but it could be coming next week at the earliest.
The 777X is expected to hit the market next year. Lufthansa is one airline that has expressed it was anticipating to take on the aircraft in 2021. However, Emirates, one of the type’s most iconic customers, did not expect the aircraft’s delivery until 2022. Cathay Pacific is also looking to defer 777Xs.
Boeing offered Simple Flying the following comment:
“We are working closely with our customers around the world as they continue to adapt to the evolving COVID-19 situation. We continue to execute our robust test program for the 777-9, which began flight testing in January. As we prepare the third airplane for flight in the coming weeks, we remain pleased with the progress we are making and with the airplane, which will deliver the efficiency and passenger experience our customers expect.”
Why a delay would be wise
Boeing’s 777X made its first flight at the end of January. Less than two months later, the air travel market saw one of the worst global downturns in demand amid a new and unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic.
Demand for large widebodies is down. Airlines around the globe are deferring aircraft orders—not just for Boeing, but even Airbus jets. While some airlines may be interested in taking a new widebody next year, Boeing would not get a successful first year that could convince other airlines to order the type.
Instead, if the 777X launches a year-or-so later, say 2022, then it is likely that plenty of 777X customers would be keen to take the planes—especially if air travel demand makes a rebound by then. In which case, Boeing would see several airlines enter it into service and be able to tout the aircraft’s efficiency and ability to fly an incredible array of routes.
Moreover, by then, airlines will have a better understanding of future fleet plans. Plenty of aircraft have entered long-term storage, or else retirement, leaving some carriers without a solid number of widebody aircraft for the mid-2020s when air travel demand is expected to make a full recovery. A shiny new jet on the market, with a healthy production program, could make it an attractive option for airlines looking to replace lost capacity with the retirement of planes like the A340s, A380s, 747s, and some older 777s.
Time to ramp up production
Sources also stated to Reuters that Boeing would want to ramp up production of the aircraft to get them out by 2022 or 2023. The program has, thus far, faced several unanticipated and unwanted delays. A delay to the official launch of the plane in commercial service would allow Boeing to smoothen out any potential production kinks and get the aircraft out on time.
Do you think Boeing should delay the commercial launch of the 777X? Let us know in the comments!