Ahead of an expected 2024 delivery of Lufthansa's first Boeing 777-9, the delayed jetliner is making the rounds as part of Boeing's 777X test flight program.
It's an early glimpse of what Lufthansa and other airlines expect to become a common sight at airports around the world.
Most notable will be the sweeping scythe-link wings, which are so long that the wing-tips are retractable, folding up in order to fit into airport gates designed for the previous generation of Boeing and Airbus jets.
Under each of those wings is the world's largest commercial jet engine – GE Aviation's GE9X – the intake of which could swallow a Boeing 737.
The Boeing 777-9 seen in these photos during a test flight over the US state of Washington will eventually be handed over to Lufthansa as part of the German carrier's 20-strong order.
The 777-9 will in turn serve as the launchpad for Lufthansa's all-new business class, which adopts a staggered layout with alternating 1-2-1 and 1-1-1 rows of seating, with the middle seat of the 1-1-1 row being a prized "throne" seat – the ultimate for solo flyers seeking more space and more privacy.
But Lufthansa will have to stand in line behind Qatar Airways, which now claims to have snatched the right to be the prestigious launch customer from rival Emirates, with an order for 60 777-9s and delivery starting in late 2023.
"Qatar Airways is the first customer of the 777X, we will receive our first three aircraft in 2023," airline chief Akbar Al-Baker announced last month at a US-Qatar economic forum, adding that the Oneworld member was "actively working with Boeing on the design and performance specification for this new aircraft type."
"We will take the 777X whenever it is ready, as soon as it is ready. I think Boeing has notified us that there will be a delay on the delivery of those aircraft until 2023, so in the year 2023 we will receive our first three 777X aircraft."
As previously and exclusively reported by Executive Traveller, Qatar's Boeing 777-9 fleet will largely top out at business class with an evolved version of the airline's Qsuite, with an "exclusive" first class cabin under consideration for a handful of jets on premium routes such as London and Paris.
“We are studying the possibility of having a very exclusive first class cabin of just four seats, for example,” Al Baker revealed to Executive Traveller, describing it as a deliberately “very niche product” aimed at well-heeled Qatari travellers.
“We have huge demand here in Qatar to two or three European destinations” such as London and Paris, Al Baker explains, “so we may introduce a very small first class cabin for our local passengers who want a very exclusive first class product.”
Emirates, despite its mighty order for 115 Boeing 777X jets, now doesn't expect to pick up its first set of keys until around 2024 or as late as 2025, with Emirates President Sir Tim Clark recently slamming the 777X program as being "in a state of disarray".
The much-delayed Boeing 777X was initially due for handover to Emirates in the middle of this year.
Cathay Pacific has pushed back the delivery of its Boeing 777-9 jets, previously slated to begin in 2021, to "beyond 2025" , with speculation the order for 21 777-9s could be slashed by as much as 50% as part of a sweeping restructure and "right-sizing" of the airline to suit the post-COVID era.