Emirates will now be waiting ever longer for its new Boeing 777X flagship, with the airline indicating that 2023 is the new delivery date for Boeing's much- delayed jetliner.
The 777X’s commercial debut was originally set for 2020, with Emirates first in line as prestigious launch customer by dint of a staggering order for 150 of the next-gen jets – 115 of the 777-9 model and 35 of the smaller but longer-range 777-8 – worth US$76 billion based on list prices.
Emirates President Sir Tim Clark has voiced his frustration at a series of pushbacks by Boeing, saying in November 2020 "I have no idea” about the delivery schedule.
“They were due to be delivered this year in June, then it was 2021, then it was 2022. It hasn’t finished its certification program yet, both airframe and engine.”
Work on the 777X – the latest member of the popular Boeing 777 family - has been slowed by a series of technical issues as well as COVID-19's dramatic impact on aviation and travel demand.
Combining the best attributes of the familiar and long-running Boeing 777-200 and -300 family with the high-tech advantages of the 787 Dreamliner's clean-sheet design, the big twin-engine 777X has proven too big for airlines to fill in the immediate wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
In July 2020, Emirates chief operating officer Adel Al Redha said that based on discussion with Boeing “I don’t see that they will be able to deliver the aircraft in 2021,” adding that “I think 2022 is a safe assumption to make.”
However, in announcing its new premium economy offering which will take wing on the Airbus A380 from early 2021, Emirates added that premium economy "will also be installed on some of its Boeing 777X aircraft which are only due to join the fleet in 2023."
In addition to premium economy, Emirates' 777X jets will be crowned by six first class suites based on the airline’s 2017 design for the Boeing 777-300, which in turn were inspired by the Mercedes-Benz S-Class through the soft leather seating, high-tech control panels and mood lighting.
Each of the 3.7m² (40ft²) suites will wrap passengers in a fully private cocoon with floor-to-ceiling sliding doors and, in the case of travellers in the middle suite of the 1-1-1 configuration, ‘virtual windows’ which displays real-time camera views from the outside on HD video screens.
Likewise, Emirates' Boeing 777X business class will draw on the airline’s Airbus A380 and Boeing 777 business class as shared starting points for creating a new business class seat for the new decade.
Clark has previously told Executive Traveller that the Boeing 777X business class seat will “resemble what we have on the Airbus A380s upstairs”, including that 1-2-1 layout which affords direct aisle access to every passenger.
However, the look of Emirates' Boeing 777X business class best and the overall cabin colour scheme will be based on the latest Boeing 777 business class.
The seat will of course boast familiar creature comforts such as touchscreen controls, multiple personal lighting options, a shoe stowage area and a personal mini-bar.
There’ll also be a small but upscale social area, which Clark suggested to Executive Traveller would be “fairly glamorous and attractive for people to stand and have a chat.”
“It won't be as big as the A380 of course, but there will be sort of convivial areas where people can go and gather, and pick up whatever they want to eat or drink,” he added, saying that the success of the Airbus A380's cocktail bar meant "social areas have now become a bit of a signature for us.”
“We're trying to continue what we've always done, albeit with smaller real estate to work with (compared to the A380).”
Clark says the space will be an “embellishment” of the refurbished Boeing 777-200LR’s self-serve snack and drink counters, which he described as “more of the ilk of what we can afford to do with the real estate on those aeroplanes.”
The Boeing 777X’s social area will also be "slightly better located (than on the LR)“ – hinting that it could be positioned at the very end of the business class cabin rather than more towards the middle of the cabin as on the 777-200LR, which proves disruptive for passengers seated nearby.