Boeing has won its first 777-X orders for about two years and secured a new airline customer for the program with British Airways signing for up to 42 aircraft.
The airline’s parent company International Airlines Group has signed a deal for 18 777-9X and options for 24 more.
It is the first order for the 777X family of aircraft since 2017, when Singapore Airlines (SIA) signed for 20 of the type.
International Airlines Group (IAG) said on Thursday (European time) the 18 777-9X would be configured to carry 325 passengers in a four-cabin layout.
Further, the aircraft have been earmarked to replace 14 747-400s and four 777-200s in the British Airways fleet.
IAG chief executive Willie Walsh said the 777-9X was the “world’s most fuel efficient longhaul aircraft”.
“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,” Walsh said in a statement.
“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. It also provides an enhanced passenger experience.”
British Airways is the last remaining European carrier flying to Europe with its own aircraft with a daily London Heathrow-Singapore-Sydney service with 777-300ER equipment.
Launched in 2013, the 777-X family of aircraft comprise the 777-8X and 777-9X variants. The pair is an upgrade from Boeing’s in-production 777-200LR and and 777-300ER.
The 777-8X and 777-9X will be powered by General Electric GE9X engines. Flight tests for those engines began in March 2018.
Other new features include composite wings with folding wingtips to maintain its Code E rating at airports, as well as in-cabin enhancements such as larger overhead stowage and a wider cross section.
The 777-9X is 77 metres in length, has a total wingspan of 72 metres and is capable of flying 7,600nm when carrying 400-425 passengers in a two-class configuration according to Boeing figures. First delivery was expected to occur in 2020.
It has been pitched as the ideal replacement for the very large aircraft segment of the market.
Boeing Commercial Airplanes vice president of marketing Randy Tinseth recently described the 777-9X as “definitely the best big airplane in the market in the future”, given its capacity, range and operating economics.
“It’s the airplane that will replace the 747-400, ultimately the 747-8, and it is going to replace the A380,” Tinseth told reporters on the sidelines of the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) assembly of presidents in Jeju, South Korea on October 19.
Meanwhile, the 777-8X is still in development and yet to reach firm configuration. The Boeing website lists the aircraft as having a range of 8,700nm and a passenger capacity of 350-375 passengers. The aircraft is expected to enter service in 2022.
Tinseth described the 777-8X as “really about the replacement for the 777-300ER”.
“We’re not going to see that replacement cycle for that aircraft until we get into the next decade,” Tineseth said.
The British Airways order comes as Boeing prepares to roll out the first 777-9X at its Everett facility just outside Seattle in Washington State.
On February 20, Boeing released pictures of four 777-X flight test aircraft undergoing final assembly on its Twitter account.
Can you spot all of the #777X flight test airplanes? We'll give you a hint, there are 4! ? Our amazing teams continue to make progress as we prepare to roll out the world's most efficient large twin-engine airplane. Rollout date coming very soon, stay tuned! #avgeek pic.twitter.com/XxVv56X7ka
— Boeing Airplanes (@BoeingAirplanes) February 20, 2019
Then, on February 27, again on Twitter, the aerospace giant offered a glimpse of a 777-X being painted.
— Boeing Airplanes (@BoeingAirplanes) February 27, 2019
Boeing Commercial Airplanes chief executive Kevin McAllister said the 777X had “no competitor in its class” when it came to efficiency and performance.
“It is the right-sized airplane for British Airways to efficiently serve long-range routes with heavy passenger demand,” McAllister said in a statement.
There were 326 orders for the 777X program at January 31 2019, according to the Boeing website.
While the 326 figure included 25 aircraft for Etihad Airways – comprising eight 777-8X and 17 777-9X – it was reported in February 2019 that the Abu Dhabi-based carrier was restructuring its order book and committing to take only six of the 777-X aircraft over the coming years.
At December 31 2018, British Airways had 35 747-400s in its fleet. The airline has said previously it planned to phase out the type by 2024.
Meanwhile, the 777-9X order has also kicked off the replacement program for British Airways’ 46 777-200/200ERs. While the four oldest airframes will be replaced by the 777-9X, the airline was considering all applicable aircraft for the remaining 42 777-200/200ERs.
VIDEO: Boeing details on its YouTube channel the 777-X’s flightdeck design and philosophy.