Launch Customers – Which Airlines Were First To Fly Each Boeing Plane?

Along with Airbus, Boeing has dominated the commercial airliner market for many decades. When the planemaker reveals a new aircraft type, there is a degree of competition between airlines to be the launch customer for the plane. The benefits could include some extra media attention paired with bragging rights. It could also mean increased passenger traffic from aviation enthusiasts as they want to be some of the first passengers aboard a new plane. Here we’ll take a look at the launch customers of Boeing jets.

Boeing 777X
There’s kudos to being the launch customer of a new Boeing aircraft. Photo: Boeing

Boeing 707

The Boeing 707 is considered to be the first commercially successful passenger jet airliner. The mid to long-range aircraft made its inaugural flight on December 20, 1957. In 1955 Pan American World Airways (Pan Am) had ordered 20 707s. Pan Am operated the first commercial 707 flight from New York to Paris in October 1958.

Boeing 717

The Boeing 717 was originally launched as the MD-95. It was renamed after the merger of Boeing and McDonnell Douglas in 1997. The launch customer was AirTran Airways of Orlando, which took delivery of the first 717 in September 1999. The first commercial flight was from Atlanta to Washington DC in October 1999.

Boeing 727

In 1960, Boeing received orders for 40 of its three-engined 727 aircraft each from United Airlines and Eastern Air Lines. Eastern operated the first commercial flight in February 1964.

United and Eastern were the first to order the Boeing 727. Photo: Getty Images

Boeing 737

Lufthansa became the first non-US customer to launch a Boeing aircraft with its order for 21 Boeing 737s in 1965. In February 1968, the airline operated the first 737 commercial flight.

Boeing 747

The first order for the iconic Boeing 747 was from Pan Am in 1966. The first 747 delivered to the airline in 1970 and christened ‘Clipper Victor’ by First Lady Pat Nixon. Pan Am’s inaugural flight was from New York to London in January 1970.

Pan Am 747
Pan Am was the launch customer of the iconic Boeing 747. Photo: Getty Images

Boeing 757

The primary launch customers for the Boeing 757 were British Airways and Miami-based Eastern Air Lines, with orders for 21 and 19 aircraft respectively. Eastern began commercial service with the 757 in February 1983 on the Atlanta-Tampa route.

Boeing 767

Boeing’s new widebody 767 aircraft was officially launched in July 1978 with an order for 30 units from United Airlines. United’s inaugural commercial 767 flight was in September 1982 from Chicago to Denver.

Boeing 777

Designed to bridge the gap between the 767 and 747, the Boeing 777 program was launched in October 1990. The aircraft entered service with launch customer United Airlines in June 1995.

Boeing 787-10, Operators, United Airlines
United Airlines was the first to operate all three variants of the 787-10 family. Photo: Getty Images

Boeing 787

Following on from the success of the 777, Boeing developed the 787 widebody aircraft with a focus on fuel efficiency. The first order for 50 of the new ‘Dreamliner’ jet was from All Nippon Airways (ANA). The airline made its first 787 flight in October 2011.

Boeing 777X

The Boeing 777X represents the manufacturer’s biggest step in large aircraft since the 747 over 50 years ago. The first deliveries are expected in 2022, with Lufthansa placing the first firm order to become the launch customer.

Of course, there are several different variations of each of these aircraft, each with its own launch customers. But it’s the initial launch of an all-new aircraft that can give an airline the kudos of being the first to operate it.

How many of these Boeing aircraft have you flown on? Tell us about your experiences.