After days of speculation, Boeing has finally launched its new 777-8 Freighter following an order for up to 50 aircraft from Qatar Airways.
While the cargo deal was not entirely unexpected, it confirms just how badly the relationship between Airbus and the Doha-based company has deteriorated in the wake of a vicious debate over alleged quality issues on the A350. As an added twist, Qatar and Boeing have also agreed terms for a firm order for 25 737 MAX jets, but let's first focus on the freighter developments:
Once operational, the 777-8F will be world's largest twin-engine cargo jet, boasting the largest payload capacity. Boeing figures suggest it will yield a 25% improvement in fuel efficiency, emissions and operating costs versus current-generation examples.
Speaking at the White House where the deal was signed, Akbar Al Baker, Qatar Airways Group CEO said: “Boeing has a long history of building market-leading freighter aircraft and Qatar Airways is honoured to have the opportunity to be the launch customer for the 777-8 Freighter, an aircraft which will not only allow us to further enhance our product offering for our customers, but also help us meet our objectives to deliver a sustainable future for our business.
"Today marks a great day in the ever-building and strong relationship between Qatar Airways and Boeing. We certainly push Boeing hard to deliver upon our expectations, and the team at Boeing consistently strives to meet and exceed our expectations, giving the opportunity for us to be here today to launch the most significant new freighter aircraft for a generation."
This upbeat message was echoed by Stan Deal of Boeing, who said his company was up the challenge of matching the expectations of one of the world’s most discerning airline customers: “We are delighted to launch Boeing's next great cargo airplane with Qatar Airways, one of the world's largest cargo carriers and our partner since the airline began operations 25 years ago. Our team is ready to create an airplane that will serve them well for many decades."
First delivery of the new freighter is anticipated in 2027 – an ambitious timeframe but one that Boeing executives will no doubt be working hard to meet. Qatar Airways Cargo’s fleet already includes two Boeing 747-8F, two 747-4F, 26 777Fs, one Airbus A310F and two 777-300ER mini freighters.
The freighter launch wasn’t the only major development in Washington today. Boeing and Qatar have also signed a Memorandum of Understanding for up to 50 737-10s, the largest 737 MAX jet in the clearest signal yet that the relationship between the Doha-based firm and Airbus has soured beyond recognition. The MoU, which comprises a firm order for 25 with a further 25 options, will be a massive endorsement of the MAX programme, which continues to face problems.
As the largest model in the MAX family, the 737-10 can carry up to 230 passengers in a single-class configuration and fly up to 3,300 miles. It is however likely that Qatar will opt for at least a two-class setup to reflect its premium market position. The total value of the 737-10 commitment is nearly US$7bn at Boeing's list prices.
"Qatar Airways very much looks forward to adding the 737-10 to its fleet, with this new variant of the 737 being ideally suited to our short-haul network, allowing us an opportunity to further enhance our product offering for our customers, modernise our fleet and operate the most efficient aircraft in its category," added Al Baker.
This is a breaking story – we will add further information as we get it.