Seattle: With Lufthansa as its first recently announced customer for the new 777X aircraft — the improved version of its long-range 777 aircraft — the Boeing Company is optimistic about procuring orders for the aircraft type from the Middle Eastern airlines, according to a senior executive at Boeing Commercial Airplanes.
“I have great hope that the Middle East will be a large part of Boeing’s 777X launch. Qatar Airways is also interested in 777X,” Marty Bentrott, Vice President – Sales, Middle East, Russia & Central Asia, Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said in Seattle a day before the German carrier announced its order for 34 of Boeing’s 777X jets.
“The product of choice for many of our customers in the region has been 777 with Emirates as the largest 777 customer in the world with over 125 aircraft in service. It’s hardly a month that goes by without us delivering a 777 to Emirates. And certainly one of the areas of interest amongst all is 777X of which there is strong interest on the part of our customers in the region.”
According to the US planemaker, the launch of the 777X family is scheduled for later this year with the aircraft set to enter service by the end of the decade.
Emirates has had a major role to play in Boeing producing the new generation 777. Asked if Boeing was already in talks with Emirates for orders for the 777X, Bentrott told Gulf News: “I can’t discuss that but I would say that for the last two-and-a-half years we have been actively engaged and encouraged to move forward with this programme. We have been actively engaged with Emirates in the next generation 777.”
He added that as the largest 777 customer in the world, “they [Emirates] deserve our focus and attention”.
“From our standpoint this family of airplanes needs to be effective for Emirates in its business plans because their vision is they have a 777 replacement cycle starting towards the end of this decade and they expect us to be able to provide them with an airplane much more efficient in operation than today’s 777 with even more capabilities. So we have been working closely with them to be certain we are meeting their expectations with the design of this airplane,” Bentrott said.
Bentrott’s comments come a few months after Emirates’ President, Tim Clark, had told Gulf News in an interview in May that the airline would start negotiations with Boeing on the 777X jets in the next couple of months, depending on a number of things such as the delivery timeline etc, even as the jets won’t be delivered until late 2020 or 2021.
Clark, meanwhile, had said that Emirates would not enter into negotiations with Boeing until “we are absolutely sure that it [777X] is going to be delivered to the specification that we called for, on the timeline that they say it will be, at the price that we want. But we are not in that position quite yet. If they fail on any of those, we don’t go anywhere.”
As for the size of the order, Clark had said it would be a healthy number if the airline went ahead with the order. “What I would say is that we will have 175 777-ERs (extended range) by then. And all those have got to be replaced. So the number will be determined by the fleet replacement cycle, the big Airbus A350 as an alternative, whether we can get more A380s — above the 90 that we will have by November 2017 etc. But that also leaves a very large number of 777-ERs to be replaced. And we have worked very closely with them to get this one [777X] launched and designed. So a lot of it is a result of what Emirates wants,” he had said.
777X launch at Dubai Air Show
While Bentrott did not divulge any information of whether the new 777X would be showcased at the upcoming Dubai Air Show in November, analysts say it’s likely to, with even a possible customer announcement at the airshow. According to Saj Ahmad at StrategicAero Resrarch, Gulf carriers will comprise the biggest buyers of the 777X, “with Emirates on cue to take a sizeable number in just a few weeks at the Dubai Air Show,” where he said, a formal launch of the 777X is likely to occur.
Meanwhile, Boeing secured an $11 billion order (at list prices) from Lufthansa last week for its 777-9X version. The German flag carrier said it is also buying 25 Airbus A350-900s, outing the total transaction value at $19 billion at list prices.