Boeing expects 777X orders and hopes for trade war respite

The plane maker has 358 orders and commitments from eight customers for the new wide-body plane, including from Emirates Airline

Rendering 777-9X; Air to Air; Over Clouds Blue Boeing Livery; K66734
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Boeing's sales chief expects a rise in orders of the re-engined 777X wide-body within three years and hopes for a breakthrough in the US-China trade war as the Asian nation is set to become its top market.

Sales will pick up when airlines start replacing ageing fleets of the older previous 777-300ER models, said Ihssane Mounir, Boeing's senior vice president of commercial sales and marketing.

"The reason you’re not seeing a stampede of orders ... is because the 777-300ER is still young, it came into service in 2005," Mr Mounir said in Renton, Washington. "So I would suspect we will see a huge take-off of orders within the next three years. We will start seeing airplanes coming to 20 years of age around 2025 and airlines typically make a procurement three to four years ahead of a wide-body delivery, so soon we will start seeing even more."

Boeing has secured 358 orders and commitments from eight customers for the 777X, including from Emirates Airline for 150 jets. Boeing had earlier said it would postpone the first flight of its 777X to next year amid problems with the General Electric engines and may delay deliveries. Emirates, the launch customer of the 777X, was scheduled to receive the plane next year but its president, Tim Clark anticipates the new wide-body aircraft will not be on schedule by June 2020.

"I believe GE does have a solution now and we’re working with them on implementing the solution and we anticipate having first delivery sometime next year, I couldn’t tell you exactly when next year," Mr Mounir said.

The 777X first flight is scheduled for "early next year", he said, without elaborating. New orders for the jet would be driven by airlines seeking to replace the 777-300ER, 777-200LR and 747s.

Airlines such as Air France and Korean Air have large fleets of 777s but have not made a decision on the re-engined model yet, Mr Mounir said. Chinese companies introduced the 777-300ER only about six to seven years ago so they would be expected to start making replacements in two to three years from now, he said.

China, currently Boeing's second biggest market globally after the US, is set to overtake it by 2020.

An escalating trade dispute between China and the US has cast uncertainty over Boeing's wide-body jet production and deliveries, especially for the 787 Dreamliner and the 777X, Boeing chief executive Dennis Muilenburg said at a Morgan Stanley conference.

"I sure hope we will get to a resolution ... in terms of trade negotiations. The US needs China and China needs the US, we’re the two largest economies we’ll find our way through it. I don’t look at it today, I look at five to 10 years out, by then my outlook doesn’t change," Mr Mounir said.

Global organisations including the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and Iata have talked about the repercussions from an escalating trade war that threatens to slow the global economy. US-China tensions forced the IMF to revise growth projections for the world economy four times.

“We’re still hopeful that a trade deal will be accomplished and that airplanes will be part of that,” Mr Muilenburg said. “But a lack of a trade deal does add risk to our wide-body skyline. So we’re paying close attention.”