Are Airbus And Rolls-Royce “Reviving” Boeing’s 777-8??

By Spyros Georgilidakis | December 1, 2023

The Boeing 777-8 hasn’t sold well, but the issues that the Airbus A350-1000’s engines have in some climates could revive its prospects.

Are Airbus And Rolls-Royce “Reviving” Boeing’s 777-8??
Emirates made a “consolation” order of 15 smaller A350-900s. Image: Airbus

A few weeks ago, Airbus appeared to lose an Emirates order for the A350-1000, at the Dubai Airshow. It later emerged that the two parties had practically finalized their negotiations for this contract, over several months. However, Emirates still had to negotiate a contract with the aircraft’s engine supplier, Rolls-Royce. These negotiations stalled because of the maintenance needs of the plane’s engines in hot and dusty climates, as we saw.

But before we learned of the troubles between Emirates and Airbus, the airline placed a “shock” order for the 777-9 AND the smaller 777-8. Emirates added 90 aircraft to its existing 777X orders, bringing its total to 205. For reference, Boeing has around 450 orders in total for the 777X.

Image: Emirates

But one key element of this Emirates 777X order, for Airbus, was that the smaller 777-8 accounts for 35 jets. It now appears that the airline’s initial plan likely was for these 35 jets to be Airbus A350-1000s. Emirates Airline President Tim Clark strongly hinted at this, in an interview this week.

You have no idea how much work I’ve spent on the interiors of these airplanes”, said Clark, referring to the A350-1000. He added that the problems with the Airbus widebody “opened the door” for the 777-8, the smaller 777X variant, to return as a viable passenger jet option.

Are Airbus And Rolls-Royce “Reviving” Boeing’s 777-8??
Photo (cropped): Dan Nevill, CC BY 2.0

Making the 777-8 A Better Airbus A350 Alternative

Originally, Boeing’s plan was for the bigger 777-9 to enter the market first, and the 777-8 to follow. More recently, industry insiders suggested that Boeing was quietly prioritizing the 777-8F freighter, ahead of the 777-8, with some suggestions that the smaller passenger version could be canceled altogether.

Photo: Boeing

One reason why Boeing developed the 777-8 was to compete directly with the Airbus A350. The even larger 777-9 is a 747-400 replacement. Boeing has recently decided to enlarge/lengthen the 777-8 slightly, to align it with the 777-8F. Because of this, the 777-8 will now be nearly as big as the existing 777-300ER.

All this puts Tim Clark’s comments into some perspective. Boeing has previously offered the 777-8 as an Airbus A350 alternative, with little if any success. The American manufacturer offered this jet as an option for Qantas and its “Project Sunrise” (alongside a long-range 787).

Image: Boeing

But unless Airbus and Rolls-Royce can offer a satisfactory solution for the A350-1000’s engines in hot and dusty climates, the 777-8 could get more attention from some airlines, as the recent Emirates order showed.

There are many existing users of the 777-300ER, for whom the “upsized” 777-8 might be a better prospect, than the introduction of the A350 in their fleets. Of course, the lengthy delays in the certification of the 777X, could still slow down its sales.



  • I don’t get this logic. Given how quickly Qatar likes to complain about anything and everything you’d think we’d have heard more of these issues from them, but to my knowledge we’ve only heard about the paint/skin degradation issue and they have something like 24(?) A35K’s in service for a while now. Am I missing some big revelation? Nothing from Etihad either who also operate the A35K

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      Spyros Georgilidakis

      Qatar likely isn’t using the planes as frequently as Emirates does. Same for Etihad. Emirates would get them in larger numbers, and suffer more from frequent shop visits.

      This is a great point though, I don’t remember Al Baker highlighting any engine issues during the paint saga. But he’s gone from Qatar now, so we likely won’t hear quite as many complaints from this airline in the near future (probably).

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