Boeing is optimistic about lining up more orders for its new 777X and expects a “broad market” globally for what it claims will be the “world's largest twin-engined aircraft” when it debuts, as air travel demand comes roaring back after the Covid-19 pandemic, the company's chief executive of commercial aeroplanes said.
Emirates signalled its vote of confidence in the long-delayed programme with an additional order of 90 of the 777X planes on the first day of the Dubai Airshow on Monday.
The Dubai airline dominates the order book for the aircraft.
“I'm very confident in the long-term success of the product itself, that's why we invested in it and even during Covid we launched a freighter version of it … we see a broad market for this, it will be the ultra-big plane of the future and that serves a unique role,” Stan Deal told The National on the sidelines of the Dubai Airshow.
“I'm not concerned about where the orders are coming from. We're quite confident about the long-term success at Emirates and our other launch customers,” Mr Deal said.
“I am very hopeful for orders, but at the same time, you accrue some orders before you launch a new plane and ultimately when it’s out in the market performing, you see more orders follow through.”
Boeing won orders for 125 wide-body aircraft worth about $63 billion from Emirates and its sister airline flydubai on the opening day of the Dubai Airshow on Monday.
The jet orders from Middle Eastern airlines at Dubai's biennial air expo sent Boeing shares up 4 per cent at market close on Monday.
Demand for the aviation industry's largest planes that have dominated the fleet of the region's biggest carriers is recovering after a long cyclical downturn followed by the damaging effect of the pandemic on long-haul travel.
Boeing forecasts that wide-body aeroplanes will comprise 45 per cent of deliveries to Middle East airlines over the next 20 years, the highest percentage of the 10 global regions it features in its annual Commercial Market Outlook.
Boeing projects delivery of 3,025 new commercial aeroplanes in the Middle East by 2042, including 1,350 wide-bodies.
The 777X is still slated for delivery in 2025, Mr Deal said, without specifying when during the year. It was originally expected to debut in 2020.
Emirates has previously criticised the US aircraft manufacturer for the delays to its 777X programme, which the airline warned would hamper its complex fleet plans.
“There’s no doubt there was some disappointment with not getting the product to market as we promised and in the course of working through that, we were able to give Emirates the status very frequently of how we're progressing,” Mr Deal said.
Emirates' new order comes amid a broad recovery in travel demand globally, he said.
“No doubt the world has recovered and it recovered much faster and in Emirates' view they needed to be in a position to secure their growth so it's a combination of trust and market recovery,” Mr Deal said.
The certification process for the aircraft with the US Federal Aviation Administration is “running well, there's good harmonisation with our regulators as we move forward, we're delivering the deliverables”, he said.
Israel-Gaza war impact
The Israel-Gaza war has not yet dented confidence in travel demand or the appetite for new jets, the Boeing executive said.
“We haven't seen any residual effects yet in terms of discussions directly with customers,” Mr Deal said.
“We're hopeful that the conflict is short-lived and the peace process moves ahead, but the short answer is that there is no signs of a slowdown.”
Boeing secured a deal in March for 787 Dreamliners with Saudi Arabian start-up Riyadh Air, which has also finalised a soon-to-be-announced order for narrow-body jets.
“We are absolutely putting our best forward to both Riyadh Air and Saudia on the narrow-body campaign, which is active,” Mr Deal said.
Boeing is confident about market growth in the Middle East, particularly for wide-body aircraft, as its carriers connect East and West via their regional hubs, he added.