Boeing could delay its new 777X aircraft ‘by several months or up to a year’, according to three sources cited by a Reuters report.
Many global airlines are currently using the smaller jets in their fleets to do the jobs of the largest wide-bodies while demand for air travel remains so low because of the pandemic. Carriers are generally reluctant to go ahead with scheduled aircraft deliveries currently and many are seeking to defer deliveries.
Boeing declined to comment on the claims but it is understood that the delay could be announced this week when Boeing’s earnings are released. The planemaker told Reuters that it was continuing flight tests on the 777X and “working closely with our customers around the world as they continue to adapt to the evolving Covid-19 situation.”
The 777X had been due to enter service in 2021 and Emirates was set to be one the jet’s launch customers. Following several setbacks in the jet’s development however, Emirates revealed at the 2019 Dubai Airshow that it had decided to swap tens of 777Xs for Boeing’s 787 wide-body.
Two of the sources quoted by Reuters said that Boeing could delay the 777X timeline by a year while a third said that a delay was likely but that Boeing is keen to get production going so the aircraft can enter service by 2022-23.
“There are so many wide-body aircraft being retired, mothballed,” the third person told the news agency. “If air travel comes back to 2019 levels, many new planes will be needed.”
The largest version of the 777X – the 777-9 – will be able to carry more than 400 passengers. With most long-haul airlines retiring their huge 747 jumbos and A380 super jumbos early because of the pandemic, few will be keen to increase their capacity in the very near-term.
But when travel returns to 2019 levels, the 777X will be an important part of some carriers’ fleets, especially given that some airlines are relying on the aircraft to replace their older 777s.