Boeing To Sweeten Qantas Project Sunrise Deal Amid 777X Delays

Boeing has reportedly offered Qantas a stopgap solution for its Project Sunrise flights. Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said yesterday that an alternative to the ultra-long-range 777-8 had been offered as a temporary fix until that aircraft is ready. For Boeing, an order from Qantas for the 777-8 is crucial to the survival of the program.

Boeing Project Sunrise
Boeing is pulling out all the stops to secure the Project Sunrise order. Photo: Qantas

An alternative on the table

As more hold-ups plague the Boeing 777X, the US planemaker has come up with a plan in an attempt to secure the all-important Project Sunrise order. Qantas told Bloomberg that Boeing has offered them a ‘stopgap’ deal, in an attempt to meet the carrier’s deadline whilst still leaving the 777X on the table.

Alan Joyce was in London yesterday ahead of the Project Sunrise test flight between the UK’s capital and Sydney. The plane used in this case was an unmodified Boeing 787-9, loaded lightly with passengers in order to make the epic 19 hour plus trip. While there he gave an interview, in which he said,


“While the 777-8X is likely to be delayed, Boeing have put a compelling proposition on the table. Part of the Boeing proposal is an alternative that gives us a transition to the later delivery of the 777.”

Boeing Project Sunrise
Joyce says there is an alternative from Boeing. Photo: Qantas.

Although the specifics of the deal were not revealed by Joyce, it largely seems as if Boeing is pitching to supply a different aircraft for the launch of Project Sunrise, with an inbuilt ability to switch to the 777-8 as soon as it’s ready.

What could the stopgap be?

There are two main options on the table that Boeing could have offered. Qantas already uses the 787-9 for its long trip between London and Perth, so Boeing could present a modified version of this as a potential fill-in for the 777-8. Installing additional fuel carrying capacity and configuring it to be extremely premium heavy could allow the 787-9 to go the distance.


The other option is a modified version of the forthcoming 777-9. Although this aircraft has seen some serious delays in production and flight testing, Joyce is not looking to launch Project Sunrise until 2021 (or possibly now 2023). This would (hopefully) give the planemaker long enough to achieve certification and get a long-range version over to Qantas.

Boeing Project Sunrise
The 777-8 may not be ready in time, but the 777-9 could be. Photo: Boeing

The 777-8 would be Qantas’ preferred version for its ultra long haul flights. The shorter fuselage and reduced seating capacity would trade-off to a greater range. However, with this aircraft still some years away, a premium heavy, less densely configured 777-9 has the potential to provide a stopgap solution.

Qantas could save the 777-8

An order for the 777-8 from Qantas is crucial to Boeing. To date, the smaller aircraft has secured just 45 orders from only two customers; Emirates and Qatar. Qatar’s CEO Akbar Al Baker recently said that the airline is considering swapping its 10 777-8 orders for the larger 777-9, which would leave only Emirates on the books.

Emirates too have cast doubt on the 777-8 program, with Tim Clark previously alluding to some of their 35 units being swapped out for 787s instead.

Boeing Project Sunrise
The 777-8 hasn’t had many orders. Photo: Boeing

Boeing has always maintained it is committed to the 777-8 program, despite pushing back the timeline for launch. Clearly, the US planemaker has a lot on its plate right now, what with delays to the 777-9, the MAX still grounded and the 737 NGs with their pickle fork cracks. Understandably, the ultra-long-range 777-8 has had to take a bit of a backseat.

For Qantas, the choice of its Project Sunrise aircraft remains to be made. Whatever stopgap Boeing proposed, there is still the option of the proven (but likely more expensive) Airbus A350-900. For now, we’ll have to wait and see which way the decision falls.


Leave a Reply

11 Comment threads
22 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
19 Comment authors
newest oldest most voted
Michael Sheargold

Come one Qantas! The A350-1000 is the way to go… It’s proven, in service and is loved by passengers. Don’t be fooled by big Boeing discounts on offer – Australian travellers want and deserve A350-1000!


i agree mate 100%

High Mile Club

Do you have a poll to reflect your opinion, because I wouldn’t say that a certain Target group wants a certain plane and treat it as fact…
And the whole point of this project is to open up more travel options to people who would have to travel first to an airport that’s a little bit closer to Australia before making that trip.

Nate Dogg

The increased MTOW 321T A350-1000 has rendered the current 777-8 design as outdated before it is even built. It can do the London to Sydney run with 300 pax and 5 tonnes of cargo quite comfortably. While burning about 34 tonnes less fuel than the same trip for the 777-8. While the 777-8 may carry a similar number of pax, it will need to carry some top price cargo to pay for that 34 tonnes of juice.


Joyce told us in the beginning of this Project Sunrise hype that he wanted a plane that could carry “about 400 passengers”. He’s not going to be able to achieve anything remotely near that figure if he uses a 787 “with additional fuel carrying capacity and configuring it to be extremely premium heavy”. The same will apply to “a premium heavy, less densely configured 777-9”. If he’s foolish enough to opt for the 777-8, he’ll be the only one flying a white elephant after the Gulf carriers (inevitably) cancel their orders. And if he waits until 2023, Virgin will probably… Read more »


If Virgin starts London-Sydney before Qantas, then Qantas with Joyce in front would look like fools that can’t make the right decision in time.
Richard Branson will use that to promote Virgin, and that is something he’s good at.


So much discussion on project sunrise and yet one key point is always missing. The fact that boeing already has one proven aircraft the B777-200LR that is capable of flying between Sydney and London on a premium heavy configuration. Of course the fuel cost for this aircraft is definitely much higher than the A350 or the B787. However if boeing decides to lease the aircraft for free to Qantas to offset the fuel cost and as a stop gap solution, it will be a really sweet deal as the crew will have a seamless transition to the B777-8 later. On… Read more »

In-Frequent Flyer

That does raise a lot of questions. I get that fuel savings is a must because those prices are gonna get any lower, but if they’re on a deadline then they might have to just bite it and pick something not-quite up to what they were hoping for. Plane and engine tech is starting to reach its limits these days…


What will happen to those 777-200lr after Qantas has borrowed them very cheap. Those are fuel burning monsters compared to the 787, A350 and the new 777×8, I don’t think anybody want them, fuel is a major operating cost. They have a list price of around 350 million US dollar each. If Boeing goes for this solution, they are really desperate in my eyes.
If you look at the 20 longest flights, only 3 of them uses 777-200lr, and of those, 2 can be done by a handful of other aircrafts.

High Mile Club

Typically, used planes would get pawned off to the second-hand market. Or the LRs in particular would be converted to freighters.

Nate Dogg

Etihad are parting out 11 year old 777-200LR’s. They are miles out of favour and uneconomical.


Ethiad are in so much trouble they are parting out everything including staff gates and routes……………..why would aircraft be any different.


I don’t see Boeing ever leasing aircraft for free just to get a foot in the door. That’s something Airbus has successfully done. Not Boeing…


Qantas/Joyce have been milking this for publicity. Hopefully BA or Virgin come along with an A350-1000ULR and just do the job. It would be very little risk. Frankly I think Sydney to Frankfurt or Munich would work. It’s 600km less and you’ve got access to Lufthansa’s incredible route network to any place in Europe.


Boing is beginning to sound like a used car salesman. “sorry we don’t have anything that suits at the moment, oh hang on I do have this at the back….”


Qantas should just cut to the chase and get the a350. Air New Zealand are starting their new service to New York from Auckland next year which no doubt will attract a lot of Australian passengers! So with Qantas already lagging behind they should get the a350 as soon as possible otherwise everyone’s just gonna use Air New Zealand’s New York service!

High Mile Club

Honestly, neither Boeing or Airbus have anything that could carry 400 PAX at the distance Project Sunrise entails (not without stopping somewhere along the way, which would defeat the purpose of the project). I know people want Qantas to pick the a350 1000, but its current configuration I don’t see it going that distance without dropping the amount of people that carrier unless Airbus announces an ER version; and I don’t believe Qantas would want a stock aircraft unless they are shown it is capable of a 17000 km feat with a PAX load they like. A modified 787-9 doesn’t… Read more »

High Mile Club

Note to self: speech to text sucks….


“Inbuilt”. Chiefly British for built-in.


I think plan is for an enhanced 777-9 which will be able to carry a larger payload given its large even after maximum capacity it cut significantly to allow for range. And when the -8 is ready they’ll take it on. But if the -9 proves outstanding they may just continue with it. I feel as though in as much as Boeing is probably one of the most hated companies right now (rightfully so) the 777x is going to be a stellar aircraft without a doubt and I don’t think Qantas will go wrong choosing the enhanced -9 even over… Read more »


I think the 777x has reached its limits to MTOW on 351 tons because of its undercarriage design. Same problem the A350-1000 have, it has said to have its limits around 320 tons. To change this would involve major redesign of the aircraft. When you also take in consideration that the 777x has 25-30 tons higher empty weight, it’s not easy to let the 777x-9 do the Sydney-London flight economically feasible

High Mile Club

Is it possible to have one type do one route and another type do the other?


“…the 777x is going to be a stellar aircraft without a doubt” Sure…that’s why: – Only 350 of them have been ordered, with very few new orders in recent months. – 60% of its orders come from just two Gulf carriers, who are openly considering dropping it. – Not a single US carrier has ordered it. – Lufthansa have just deferred 14 of them. – The 777-8 has been indefinitely postponed, and the first flight of the 777-9 is unsure. – Boeing are desperate to get Qantas to order it. – Boeing aren’t at all worried (sarcasm) about the 319t… Read more »


And the A350-1000 has 176? Bare in mind the 777x is still in Pre delivery also the 77W aircraft that it’s meant to replace is still a relatively new aircraft so airlines aren’t ready yet. You talk about not a single US carrier, yes but United are STILL getting 77ws and you expect them to start ordering 777-Xs? American took delivery of their first in 2012, so why the hell would they order a 777X so soon. It says a lot that Emirates actually ditched the A35K for the 777x. Look at the 777x order book. Full of word class… Read more »


I’m sorry but you’re saying nonsense. Because Emirates said they want to move their -8 order to another type means they’re dropping the 777x? The other 115 they ordered? Did they personally tell you they want to drop it? Also Qatar did they also send you an email telling you they want to drop the aircraft? Etihad are struggling that’s why they had to drop. Your beloved A350s are flying straight from the factory to storage because they don’t want it right now. So all this false misrepresentation of the 777x situation is just nonsense really


– Regarding the low order numbers for the A350-1000: I completely agree with you. However, the A350-1000 is currently flying, its engine appears to be reliable, and it’s much cheaper than the 777-9. – As regards Emirates: Tim Clarke recently said in the media that he’s tired of airline programs with unreliable engines, and he’s “not amused” by the projected delay in his 777-9 deliveries. He cancelled the A350 before…and he can just as easily cancel the 777X. – Qatar recently expressed keen interest in the 319 ton variant of the A350-1000…which outpaces both 777Xs. Some extra reading for you:… Read more »

Richard Allison

If airbus built the a380neo it would be the best aircraft for the job


The 777-8 seems to share the same fate as the Airbus A330-800neo: brand new plane with a great range, but not much interest from the industry.

Wonder if we will see a Boeing 787-9LR or 777-9LR.


777-8 is cheaper than A350 ? waaat ?


Joanna, quick question for you:

‘Whatever stopgap Boeing proposed, there is still the option of the proven (but likely more expensive) Airbus A350-900. For now, we’ll have to wait and see which way the decision falls.’

Last update from Wiki has the following list prices:

A350-900: US$317.4 million (2018)[7]
A350-1000: US$366.5 million (2018)[7

-8: US$410.2 million
-9: US$442.2 million

Could you let us know where you got the pricing info from?