Why The Boeing 777X Is The Perfect 747 Replacement

EDIT: A slight mistake was made in the below claim of fuel efficiency, it has been corrected from per mile to per hour of flight time. 

As the world holds it’s breath in collective anticipation of the upcoming 777X factory rollout, we are reminded that the world is also saying goodbye to the queen of the skies, the Boeing 747.

The 777 series will soon become Boeing’s largest aircraft and carry the mantle of Boeing’s flagship plane… but does it really hold a candle to the older 747?

British Airways B777
British Airways has 34 B747 aircraft in its fleet at present. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

Is the 777x a replacement for the 747?

British Airways recently placed a huge order of 18 777X-9 aircraft to replace their fleet of retiring 747 aircraft.  During the press release, Willie Walsh (The CEO of IAG who owns British Airways) had this to say:

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“The new B777X-9 is the world’s most fuel-efficient long-haul aircraft and will bring many benefits to British Airways’ fleet. It’s the ideal replacement for the Boeing 747 and its size and range will be an excellent fit for the airline’s existing network. This aircraft will provide further cost efficiencies and environmental benefits with  fuel cost per seat improvements of 30 per cent compared to the Boeing 747.”

Even Boeing has been quick to point out that even they consider the 777x a replacement for the 747:

“The big airplane of the future for the aviation industry is going to be the Boeing 777-9X, It carries 400 passengers. It flies further than the 747 and the A380 does today.” – Boeing vice president of marketing Randy Tinseth

But how does it actually rank up to the 747? You can read in this detailed 777 vs 747 article here.

The critical point, however, is the question “is the 777x really a good replacement for the 747?”

The demand for the 777X should add stability to Boeing’s future performance.
Photo courtesy – The Boeing Company/Facebook

The 777X can transport a large number of passengers (349) but not as many as the 747 (410). The 777x can also fly far (7,525 nmi / 13,940 km) but not as far as the 747 (8,000 nmi (15,000 km). In fact, the Boeing 747 seems to trump the 777x in everything apart from fuel efficiency… so why replace it?

The 747 is simply not designed for this modern climate. Apart from just being cheaper to run (by about 1-2 dollars per seat per hour of flight time) the 777X also features modern technologies (such as the largest engines ever placed on a passenger aircraft) and engineering principles for today’s world. Whilst it would be wonderful to keep using the same design (if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it), the 747 was initially designed many decades ago and is simply outdated.

The 777X is a modern reimagining of a 747, with the requirements of point to point travel, passengers tasted and corporate belt-tightening.

The Boeing 747 factory. Source: Boeing

What do you think? Is the 777x a good replacement for the 747? Let us know in the comments!

14 comments
    1. Umm…. Not so much. It’s the ‘redundancy’ thinking that, with 4 engines, if one fails, then you’re still going to be able to complete the flight, but not on normal power settings for cruise. That actually happened to me, and it was so.

      Consider the premise of the article. Yesterday’s engines don’t have the thrust that today’s engines do, so 4 are required to get a 747 up in the air, and burn a lot of fuel while doing so. Yesterday’s engines at cruise settings still burn a lot of fuel, and you can’t shut one or two down, because you need all 4 on line to maintain cruising speed. Maintenance on the current engines is expen$ive at today’s prices. Reliability, while very high, has been an issue over time.

      Today’s engines are more fuel efficient, have MUCH higher reliability ratings and deliver more thrust than the ones they replace. Aircraft are lighter as well, meaning that, with more thrust available on a lighter load, fuel burn is much less.

  1. The plane is 1-2 dollars per seat per mile cheaper to operate? So on a 10,000 mile transco flight it is 10,000-20,000 dollars cheaper to operate? What type of moron wrote this??

    1. It’s worse than this. If it were 1-2 dollars per seat, per mile, then the cost savings on a 7,000 mi flight would be:

      349 * 7,000 * {1,2}

      Which is $2.44 million to $4.89 million.

      Obviously, individual plane tickets do not cost $1-2 per mile flown. I think it’s more likely $1-2 per mile flown cheaper, which would work out to a cost savings of about $20 per seat on a 7,000 mi flight.

    2. Your math doesn’t work either; it’s 400x too low for SEAT MILE cost. The calculated cost for 400 seats on a 10k mile trip would be $4-8m cheaper to operate if the article is to be believed.

      The 777-9 has an aircraft mile cost of $12-13, so $1-2 savings per AIRCRAFT MILE in fuel is about right.

  2. The 777-9 will hold 400-425 passengers, so essentially identical to the 747. The 777-8 will have an 8700 mi range, so essentially identical to the 747. There are two models of 777X for a reason – efficiency for a given mission.

    Seriously, you guys need to edit each others’ work for accuracy and logic, because you’re not even looking up basic information that can be found on the Boeing website with a 3 second Google search.

  3. Here’s the main problem with the 777. It is designed to be a long haul airplane but all people need to stand up and walk around periodically on long flights for health and well being reasons. The “new and improved” airplanes are great for airline CEOs and stockholders as they are very fuel efficient with their smaller cabins but there is no place to stand or walk around in these new smaller cabins . You will always be in the way of the flight attendants. They encourage you to stay in your seat by having the captain keeping the fasten seatbelt sign on even when it is not necessary. The airlines save money but you end up with blood clots in your legs and extreme discomfort due to sitting for unhealthy extended periods of time. Bring back the larger cabin aircraft for long flights.

  4. It’s “Queen of the Skies” and Pan Am is TWO words (per another grammatical error you seem to consistently make in your articles).

  5. Having flown both extensively, I’ll say there is NO comparison from a passenger comfort perspective. The 747 (even in coach, maybe especially in coach) is FAR more comfortable than any variant of the 777. Many airlines are now configuring the 777 with a 10 wide seat config, which puts them on par comfort wise with a discount airline 737. The A380 beats all of them in passenger comfort.

    Let’s be real: This isn’t about finding a perfect replacement. This is about shaving the cost per flight down and increasing the yield. Nothing to do with customer service. Nothing to do with passenger comfort or the flight experience.

    1. Truth is, the 777 was made for 9 abreast seating; yet airlines want to maximize profit and make it 10. This is what they always do when it comes to newer planes; they always try to add more in spite of the fact it wouldn’t be as comfortable.

  6. But you haven’t flown the 777X though, which is slightly wider at .4″ per seat plus the increases in pressure and humidity.

  7. No soul has ever been lost in flight the B744/8i.

    Sadly, the same can’t be said for the B777.

    Another MAX paradigm cost saving exercise versus human lives?

    Why not improve engine and airframe efficiency, it’s been done so don’t say its not possible.

    Has grandstanding to have the latest new toy anything to do with it?

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