Boeing is comfortable with the relatively slower sales of the 777X series this year given the state of the large aircraft market.
Speaking to reporters in a briefing on the development of the new widebody, vice-president and general manager 777X programme Eric Lindblad says that the 340 orders from seven customers for the new jets thus far shows strong confidence in the programme.
“It’s interesting, when you compare where we were at with the 777-300ER at the same reference point in development of that aircraft, the number of orders for the -300ER was 69. I think actually there is a lot of confidence in the 777X,” he says.
This year, the only 777X order announced was from Singapore Airlines, which placed a firm order for 20 777-9s.
Lindblad says the slow sales are more a reflection of the market, which has moved away from larger aircraft for the time being.
“I expect things to improve as customers need more lift and backfilling some of their fleet plans that they’ve got today. So I feel confident about what’s in front of us,” he adds.
The 414-seat 777-9 is a development of the hugely successful 777-300ER. The smaller -8 variant, with a nominal range of 8,700nm, is aimed at the long-range market.
This means that the -8 will take on the market segment covered by the 777-200LR, which has not enjoyed as much sales success as its larger sibling.
Flight Fleets Analyzer shows that there are presently orders for 53 777-8s from three operators, while 58 -200LRs are in service with 13 operators.
Despite that poor precedent, Lindblad says that the 777-8 should be able to achieve greater success.
“I anticipate that it will have a greater customer base than what you see with the -200LR. We also expect that the -9 will be our top seller,” he says.
The 777-9 will offer a 20% seat-mile cost advantage over the 777-300ER, or around 12% compared to the rival Airbus A350-1000, he adds.
The first three 777-9s are in various stages of manufacturing, with first flight of the type expected in 2019, and entry into service in early 2020.
UPDATED: Changed wording of headline and lead paragraph for clarity.