Boeing 777X goes big on overhead bins and bespoke design

With the 777X, Boeing wants to refine and reshape the passenger experience.

By David Flynn, January 24 2020
Boeing 777X goes big on overhead bins and bespoke design

Despite all the aviation advances and high-tech design of the Boeing 777X, the aircraft manufacturer believes the ‘inside story’ is what will impress passengers the most.

The world's largest twin-engined passenger jet, which carries a list price of A$640 million (US$442.2 million), is expected to make its delayed maiden flight this weekend – a fitting start to not only the new year but a decade which will see 777X assume the flagship status of the Boeing 777-300ER.

The Boeing 777X's entry can be styled up with an overhead 'night sky' lightshow.
The Boeing 777X's entry can be styled up with an overhead 'night sky' lightshow.

Airlines won’t begin flying the 777X until next year, when Emirates expects to take delivery of the first Boing 777-9; Lufthansa and Cathay Pacific will also collect the keys to their first Boeing 777-9s in 2021.

Other airlines which have signed on the dotted line for the 777X include ANA, British Airways, Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways and Singapore Airlines.

The Boeing 777X family will begin with the 777-9 and later add the longer-range 777-8.
The Boeing 777X family will begin with the 777-9 and later add the longer-range 777-8.

Following the debut of the 777-9 will be the smaller 777-8, which will seat 350 passengers compared to the 777-9’s 400+ headcount but extend its range from 14,000km to 17,200km and challenge the Airbus A350ULR series as the world's longest-range commercial jet.

The 777X’s 235 feet wingspan, designed for greater efficiency and reduced fuel consumption, is so large that the wingtips have to fold up so that the over-sized 777X can squeeze into airport gates designed for its 777-300 and 777-200 siblings.

A unique folding wing-tip will let the Boeing 777X jets use airport gates intended for the 777-300ER and co.
A unique folding wing-tip will let the Boeing 777X jets use airport gates intended for the 777-300ER and co.

But for travellers, it’s what’s on the inside that counts. How will Boeing improve the passenger experience of the 777X to differentiate it from any other metal tube with wings?

Perhaps the most immediately noticeable benefit upon boarding the 777X will be the overhead bins – although in some cases this will be more about the lack of them, and in other cases their cavernous size.

“We’ve seen a lot of first class suites that have enough of their own capacity for carry-on,” says Paul Wilcynski – ‘PJ’ to pretty much everyone – who for the last seven years has been focussed on the development of the 777X’s passenger cabin architecture.

One of Boeing's first class seat concepts for the 777X.
One of Boeing's first class seat concepts for the 777X.

This leads to some airlines removing the overhead bins in first class to “create a greater sense of spaciousness throughout the cabin.”

Meanwhile, business class may feature the above-window side bins but not those in the centre, to help ‘open up’ the cabin and create an impression of greater space.

This Boeing business class seat concepts for the 777X offers 2-3-2 seating, all with direct aisle access.
This Boeing business class seat concepts for the 777X offers 2-3-2 seating, all with direct aisle access.

When passengers do reach up to stow their cary-on bags, they’ll appreciate the capacious bins on the 777X.

“In my years at Boeing I've seen bin design go through many different generations,” reflects Wilcynski, a 40-year veteran of Boeing whose expertise in interior architecture and configuration spans from the Boeing 707 to the abandoned Sonic Cruiser project which heavily influenced the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

“When I came in, it was important that we could carry garment bags in bins, and so the bins were sized for garment bags to lay flat,” Wilcynski recounts to Executive Traveller on the sidelines of the annual Aircraft Interiors Expo conference in Hamburg. “But who does that anymore?”

On the Boeing 777X, big bins are the in thing.
On the Boeing 777X, big bins are the in thing.

Changing travel trends caught up with Boeing in the early stages of designing the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. “Our airline customers said, hey, there's this thing called a rollaboard bag, you better start designing your bins around that!”

“We’ve doubled the bin capacity on the 777X, and we’ve also lowered the closing forces by 40%, so it actually becomes easier to close the full bin because the centre of gravity rotates over the pivot point. This is really important for crew and for a fuller range of passengers that are flying both in age and stature. Now everybody can close the bin.”

After stowing their bags, passengers will settle into their seat – which on many Boeing 777X airlines will mean an all-new seat design, with Lufthansa adopting a uniquely staggered layout sporting central ‘throne’ seats, while Cathay Pacific is beavering away on the next generation of its Boeing 777 first class and business class.

Lufthansa's Boeing 777-9 business class introduces an alternative 1-2-1, 1-1-1 layout.
Lufthansa's Boeing 777-9 business class introduces an alternative 1-2-1, 1-1-1 layout.

Read more: Lufthansa's new Boeing 777X business class seats revealed

Gazing out the window comes naturally on any aircraft, and the windows of the Boeing 777X also show an evolution measured across PJ’s decades with the company.

“I go way back to the Boeing 707, where we had 140 square inches of window,” Wilcynski says.

Large windows next to Boeing's 777X premium economy cabin mock-up.
Large windows next to Boeing's 777X premium economy cabin mock-up.

“Our research for the 787 showed there were deep psychological needs for having a view to the outside, being able to orient oneself to the horizon and just the pleasure of looking out – so with the 787’s composite fuselage we introduced a much larger window, going up from 140 square inches to 176 square inches.”

“The 777X has a metal fuselage as opposed to the composite fuselage on the 787, and we have found that a 162 square inch window is the sweet spot.”

“It's 16% larger (than the 777) and we've raised it 2.6 inches higher in the cabin so it’s  about the same at the top (as the 787), which is the critical dimension. It’s at the right height because nobody wants to bend over to look out a window. Seats have actually gone a little bit up also, they’ve been raised to increase under-seat storage.”

Fast glass

Also in keeping with the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, the 777X jets will have optional electronic window shading – although airlines can choose to stick with conventional sliding shades.

The 777X’s ‘fast glass’ is the third generation of the Dreamliner’s tinted window system, with an electrochromic gel sandwiched between two thin glass panels that darken or lighten at the press of a button. In demonstrations, the new windows go from clear to near-black in a matter of seconds.

However, Wilcynski expects “some airlines want to put it just in certain classes and others are deciding to put it through the whole aeroplane”.

As a result, some 777X premium cabins could sport elegant electromechanical shades similar to those on British Airways’ first class, which have a ‘private railway carriage vibe’.

“It sort of harkens back to the 19th century railroad carriage, and if that's part of an airline's brand then we want to enable that.”

Airlines will also be able to indulge themselves by heavily customising their Boeing 777X jets on a per-cabin basis, such as offering more sophisticated ceiling treatments and lighting elements in the premium cabins.

“Some of the other elements that I think passengers are going to experience are those that are completely unseen,” Wilcynski adds.

Improved insulation in the sidewalls will work to dampen noise, with more overhead air nozzles operating at a lower velocity to avoid subjecting passengers to gale-force drafts.

“We've lowered the cabin altitude, similar to our Dreamliner, and we've increased the humidification so that people are going to get off the aeroplane and not quite be as dried out. We've discovered that people really appreciate that on the 787 Dreamliner.”

David

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

Joe
Joe

03 May 2013

Total posts 490

Passengers appreciated all those extra things on the A380 waaaaay before the 787!. Nothing ground breaking here folks so move along. Even the infamous 2-3-2 business class is still an option. It's a fail from me. RIP 707/747 magic.

RR
RR

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Aug 2012

Total posts 65

“Our research for the 787 showed there were deep psychological needs for having a view to the outside, being able to orient oneself to the horizon and just the pleasure of looking out”

So why, Boeing, do you install electro tinting windows so the crew can take control and darken them and turn off that view, even on a day flight, and when you might not want to sleep and are attempting to minimise jet-lag?

No thanks.

And while they are at it, not interested in the 777X unless it is a LOT quieter than the 777. They are REALLY noisy (esp c/w A350), both the roaring aircon noise, and if anywhere near the engines it's like a Massey Ferguson grinding away.

Double no thanks.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

13 Nov 2018

Total posts 93

Absolutely agree. I avoid B777 like the plague!

I would rather fly an extra hop, have extra transit... anything other than the 777

Never been in a 777 myself but always wanted to, how does the sound level or quietness compare to that of a Airbus A350, would you say the A350 is a much quieter aeroplane.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 705

Obviously can't comment on 777X but current 777-300ER is much noisier inside than an A350 or A380.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

13 Nov 2018

Total posts 93

WAAAAYYYYYYY QUIETER!!!!!!

So much more comfortable too

04 Dec 2017

Total posts 54

The A380 is the quietest in the sky then A380, A350, 787, A330, 777. The jump in terms of noisiness from the A330 to the 777 is significantly annoying. That should give an anecdotal understanding how loud it is. There are other factors too. Eg on the 787 those fitted with RR engines are louder than those fitted with GE engines.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

13 Nov 2018

Total posts 93

Try transferring from the A380 to the B777. You'll really notice the difference!

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

14 Jan 2014

Total posts 314

Hmmmm no thanks!! I'll stick to flying A350's where possible.. MUCH nicer airplane!!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

05 Oct 2016

Total posts 61

You can hardly compare noise from 12-20 y/o 777s to 1-3 y/o A350s.... Even 787 are much newer design. And smaller engines... I've done them all and I'd do any of them again any day!


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