MIAMI — Since its spectacular launch last year at the Dubai Airshow, the Boeing 777X has had a rather muted seven months. Save for an important win at the hands of Japanese giant All Nippon Airways (ANA) for twenty 777-9Xs, Boeing is yet to win a further order for the re-engined type.
Middle Eastern giant Emirates was widely expected to firm it’s order for 150 777Xs at this week’s Farnborough Airshow, but elected to to do so the week before. But regardless of the near term order drought, the 777X program is on firm footing. Widely expressed skepticism over the “Emirates-ization” of the aircraft (the tailoring of its performance and specifications towards the Middle East Big 3) appears to have been largely overblown.
The superior seat-mile economics and the additional seating capacity can only be useful for an increasingly competitive Asian airline market that also faces the beginnings of an infrastructure crunch.
North American airlines were never likely to be customers for the type (save perhaps Air Canada and American Airlines), though Delta in its unique fashion could place an order near the end of the 777X’s lifespan. But as a 747-400 or 777-300ER replacement, the aircraft could find a home at Air France – KLM, British Airways/Iberia, and Swiss, though it is likely too large for Austrian, Aer Lingus, Finnair, TAP Portugal, SAS, and LOT Polish Airlines amongst other European long haul operators.
In the Middle East, top up orders from Qatar Airways and Etihad are moderately likely, while further orders could be forthcoming from Emirates, who has appeared to settle on a two, perhaps three-type fleet featuring the A380 and 777. Turkish Airlines could be a large customer as the 777X hits the sweet spot of VLA size with strong operating economics, and would be a strong fit for Turkish’s network, though the A350-1000 will certainly be offered against it.
Saudia and other Middle Eastern flag carriers like Kuwait Airways are potential customers, though orders from such carriers are likely 3-5 years away.
In Asia, the Chinese airlines in particular are facing a capacity and ATC crunch at major hub airports, and if they continue to focus on Beijing/Shanghai/Guangzhou as long haul hubs, an up-gauge to the 777-9 or 777-8s to use on long haul service to Africa and Latin America could be forthcoming. Singapore Airlines is a natural customer as is a further order from Cathay Pacific, and the Taiwanese carriers appear to favor the A350-1000 at the moment.
Asiana also appear committed to the A350-1000, but Korean Air certainly have space for the 777X in their network. Philippine Airlines is on a bit of a buying spree though it’s unclear whether the carrier will be able to make money on long haul flights. Garuda Indonesia is under significant yield pressure, and Air India’s 777-300ER fleet is a money sink, so these struggling national carriers are unlikely to place near term orders.
Thai Airways International was a likely customer until recent events have thrown its network into disarray. In the Pacific, Air New Zealand is between the 777X and the A350-1000, while Qantas is perhaps too disjointed to clearly plan for a 777X order, though the 777X might make more sense in its fleet than the A380.