Qatar Airways will retire the 777, in favour of the 777X
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Qatar Airways will retire the Boeing 777, the backbone of its long-haul fleet, by 2024. But that will not be the end for the Triple Seven at Qatar, nor will it be the end of the TPG Award-winning Qsuite business class on the 777. Qatar Airways will replace its current crop of 777s with the newer, bigger 777 models that are known collectively as 777X.
Airline CEO Akbar al Baker told Executive Traveller that the decision is part of a strategy to cut emissions. The 57 Boeing 777s currently operated by Qatar will be replaced by 60 newer Triple Sevens, if the airline will take all the orders it has placed with Boeing.
It should be noted that Qatar has said it won’t take any new planes this year and the next, which leaves just two years for Boeing to deliver 60 new airplanes to Qatar if the airline is to substitute newer 777s for older models one for one as deliveries come in. But 60 wide-body jet deliveries to a single airline in 24 months would be a pace unheard of in commercial aviation — so it’s likely that Qatar’s 777 routes will see a service reduction, or be flown with smaller jets, until all the new 777s are delivered.
“By 2025 we will have just the 777X”, the CEO said.
Qatar has ordered 60 of the larger 777-9 model and 10 of the 777-8, which has a shorter fuselage but longer range.
Boeing says that the General Electric GEnx engines powering the 777X will burn 10% less fuel than the GEnx version installed on current 777s, with correspondingly lower emissions. Because the new 777s are larger and can carry more passengers, emissions per seat could be more than 10% better than current models.
For passengers, the arrival of the new planes could also bring an exciting new addition: a first-class cabin. Qatar Airways has first class only on its Airbus A380s, which are also going to be phased out in the mid-2020s. But al Baker said that some 777-9s will feature a first class with a “very niche product” aimed at the highest end of the market, mostly on European routes.
Business class right behind it will be no slouch either; it will be, al Baker said, a new version of the Qsuite currently installed on 777s. Seat width will likely be unchanged since the 777X has the same fuselage cross-section as current models.
In the U.S., Qatar serves — or did before the coronavirus pandemic scrambled airline schedules — Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas – Fort Worth, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York JFK, Philadelphia and Washington. It also remains, despite al Baker’s frequent threats to leave, a member of the Oneworld alliance together with American Airlines, which makes it easy to earn and use AAdvantage miles on Qatar flights.
Qatar is also getting rid of its Airbus A330s. Al Baker said: “We are retiring the entire A330 fleet now”, he told Executive Traveller. The twin-aisle Airbus A330 does not serve the U.S., where the airline sends mostly 777s and A350s. Its current 777 fleet includes two models: the 777-300ER, which is the one seen most often in the U.S., with 42 seats in business and 316 in economy, and the 777-200LR with the same business class but 217 in economy
While outwardly similar to current 777s, the -8 and -9 models will be easy to spot at airports thanks to wingtips that fold up. With an increased wing span, which reduces fuel burn, the new 777s would not fit into many existing gates — so Boeing developed a unique folding wingtip.
The 777X made its first flight earlier this year and is scheduled to enter service next year, likely with Lufthansa. No airlines in North America have ordered it, and the 777-300ER will remain the biggest passenger aircraft in scheduled service with any of them.
Qatar is currently the world’s second-biggest operator of the Boeing 777 after Emirates, with 78 aircraft, 21 of which are cargo-only versions. Those freighters, known as the 777F version, are likely to remain in service with the airline past 2024 since the 777X series does not currently include a dedicated freighter to replace it.
Featured photo of a Qatar Airways Boeing 777-200LR in Los Angeles by Alberto Riva/The Points Guy