One of the largest 777F operators globally, Qatar Airways wants to see a freight variant of the upcoming Boeing 777X. Speaking at an event, CEO Akbar Al Baker said that he would be interested in a new variant of the successful cargo jet. Boeing has not announced plans for a cargo 777X, focusing on certifying the passenger variant first.
According to Reuters, CEO Akbar Al Baker spoke about a possible 777X cargo variant at an online event recently. He added that while Boeing had not informed him of any plans to developed a freighter version of the 777X, his airline would “definitely be interested to look into” such a program.
Qatar Airways Cargo operates a fleet of 24 777Fs (based on the -200LR variant), placing it only second to FedEx (45). The airline recently retired its last A330F, streamlining the fleet to just two Boeing models. The last four A330 freighters exited the fleet after a triple delivery of 777Fs at the start of the year.
Cargo is a critical part of Qatar Airways’ revenue and operations and has only been growing in the last few years. In 2019, Qatar became the second-largest cargo airline by freight tonne-kilometers flown, beating UPS and only behind FedEx. The pandemic has only increased demand for freighter, further boosting the airline.
Now with an all-Boeing fleet, the manufacturer will even more keen to hear feedback from Qatar Airways. So how feasible is a 777X freighter?
Boeing is currently in the middle of efforts to certify the largest twin-engine aircraft on the market, the 777-9. The aircraft has been undertaking a series of tests in preparation to receive certification from regulators and begin deliveries by late 2023. With the passenger variant delayed due to technical issues and low demand, it’s unlikely Boeing is looking to start developing another variant of the flagship jet.
However, there could be an opening for a new 777 freighter through the 777-8 program. Unlike its bigger sibling, the ultra-long-range 777-8 has seen little demand from customers. While airlines have shown tepid interest in the aircraft (it has secured a handful of orders for now), it could become the base for a new 777-8F. Indeed, the ultra-long-range 777-200LR served as the base for the extremely successful 777F.
Boeing has previously stated that it does not expect to start producing the 777-8 until two years after the larger variant. Assuming that means until the first 777X is delivered, the first 777-8 won’t be produced until 2025 at the earliest. This gives Boeing enough time to make a call about the future of the variant. Regardless of the timeline of the 777-8, we don’t expect to see a 777X freighter emerge before 2025, if not later.
While Boeing mulls over a 777X cargo version, Airbus could also be eying its own A350F. The European manufacturer has historically lagged behind its American counterpart in cargo offerings. However, an A350F could find success thanks to its efficiency and capacity. If Boeing wants to stay ahead in the cargo market, it will likely take a serious look at a 777X-F or possibly even a 787F.
Do you think Boeing will make a freighter version of the 777X? Let us know in the comments!