Boeing delays delivery of ultra-long-range version of 777X aircraft

Boeing 777X aircraft in various stages of production at the planemaker’s production facility in Everett, Washington. (Reuters)
Updated 15 August 2019

Boeing delays delivery of ultra-long-range version of 777X aircraft

  • Boeing still grapples with fallout from the 737 MAX crisis and engine issues with the 777X
  • schedule delay could jeopardize competition with European arch-rival Airbus

SAN FRANCISCO/SINGAPORE: Boeing has pushed back the entry into service of an ultra-long-range version of its forthcoming 777X widebody, the US planemaker said on Wednesday, as it grapples with fallout from the 737 MAX crisis and engine issues with the 777X.
The fresh delay comes as the grounding of Boeing’s money-spinning 737 MAX single-aisle entered a sixth month in August, and as the world’s largest planemaker faces engine-related delays on the 777X widebody that have pushed the first flight of the 777-9 into 2020.
The delay in the slower-selling, longer-range 777-8 will hamper Boeing’s ability to provide a plane in line with the schedule for Qantas Airways’ plan for 21-hour non-stop Sydney-London flights.
The Australian airline had hoped for first deliveries of the planes in 2022 and the launch of the world’s longest commercial flight in 2023.
“We reviewed our development program schedule and the needs of our current 777X customers and decided to adjust the schedule,” Boeing spokesman Paul Bergman said by email, adding that the manufacturer remained committed to the 777-8.
“The adjustment reduces risk in our development program, ensuring a more seamless transition to the 777-8. We continue to engage with our current and potential customers on how we can meet their fleet needs. This includes our valued customer Qantas.”
The Air Current website first reported the delays, saying the 350-seat 777-8 model revised for ultra-long-range flights had originally been scheduled to enter service in 2022 after the arrival of the 777-9 in 2020.
The decision effectively means Boeing engineers have frozen development work on the ultra-long-range version of the 777X. The schedule delay could jeopardize competition with European arch-rival Airbus for a slice of the ultra-long-haul travel market.
Airbus, which is offering an ultra-long-range version of its A350-1000, and Boeing have already submitted their “best and final” offers to Qantas for planes capable of the 17,000-kilometer Sydney-London route, a Qantas spokesman said.
“We still expect to make a decision by the end of this calendar year,” he said.
Boeing’s proposal included a “compelling option” to help deal with the 777-8 delay because it was keen to the stay in the race, according to a source with knowledge of the matter who was not authorized to speak publicly.
An Airbus spokesman said details of its discussions with Qantas remained confidential but the A350 was a “perfect solution” to meet the airline’s needs.
To date, Emirates and Qatar Airways are Boeing’s only customers for the 777-8, having ordered 35 and 10 respectively. The Seattle Times in June reported Emirates was renegotiating its 777X orders.
Emirates and Qatar Airways did not respond immediately to requests for comment about the 777-8 delays.


Frank Kane’s Davos diary: Swiss efficiency lapses, but so far Davos lives up to the cuckoo-clock image

Updated 22 January 2020

Frank Kane’s Davos diary: Swiss efficiency lapses, but so far Davos lives up to the cuckoo-clock image

Davos comes and Davos goes, but over the last five decades, the one thing you can rely on is Swiss efficiency, right? The trains run on time, the cuckoo clocks chime on the hour, and the snow is swept from the pathways within minutes of the first fake falling. That is the common (even cliched) view of the Alpine nation and its showpiece event, the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos.

But — and whisper it very gently beneath your breath — maybe the legendary standards of Swiss efficiency are slipping as the WEF celebrates its 50th birthday. Evidence of a lapse from the highest levels of attainment came at Zurich Airport, when the luggage belt seized up inexplicably, and a full 10 minutes elapsedbefore a maintenance man came to attend to it. Tut tut.

Further signs of falling standards were on display at the railway station. The booking desks were besieged, as usual, by WEF delegates keen to complete the final leg of their journey up the Magic Mountain — a two-hour rail journey involving two stops at increasingly higher altitudes.

But only two of the 10 grills were manned, and the line grew longer and more grumpy with each passing minute. The mood was not helped when some trains were canceled and an extra hour was added to the journey. There was much muttering and dark looks shot when the train finally pulled into Klosters.

But thankfully, once you got to the heart of WEF-land, normal service was resumed. There had been a reasonable fall of snow that morning, which gave the place its usual fairytale appearance, but no traffic snarl ups as in previous years, when massive snowfall had caused the place to grind to a halt.

The shuttle buses that are the arterial life-channels of Davos — for those whose budgets do not extend to the black Mercedes limo — were running with their usual Swiss punctuality: Every 10 minutes or so, or even more frequently during peak rush hours.

These, in my experience over the past few years, are becoming frequently extended. Having battled through the registration process and attended one event at the nearby Seehof hotel, I imagined it would be easy to catch a ride on a virtually empty shuttle back to Klosters at around 9.30 p.m. But even at that hour, there was a long queue of unhappy souls waiting to make the same 20-minute trip to the other side of the mountain and their warm, welcoming hotel rooms.

It was the same thing on the opening morning of the annual meeting. I left my hotel — the homely and comfortable Cresta in Klosters — at 7 a.m. in the dark, and at minus 5 degrees Celsius. Again, there was a crowd of people standing huddled at the shuttle stop, shivering and stamping their feet.

The WEF shuttle service was up to the job, however, and I got into the Congress Hall with little trouble. The airport-style screening process — maybe a little more thorough than usual in view of the impending arrival of US President Donald Trump — passed smoothly. One request though: Please WEF, install some hot-air machines in the security hall. The body shock when you remove outer clothing to pass through the metal detectors was wicked.

Then down to business, which for a journalist at Davos means finding somewhere in the congress complex where you can rest a laptop while also providing a good people-watching vantage point. Over the years, I have learned that the Central Lounge — strategically located between the main plenary meeting halls and the (private) members lounge and bilateral rooms — is the perfect spot. Now, who will come my way in Davos 2020?