British Airways has ordered 18 Boeing 777-9 widebodied, twin-engined airliners that will replace some of its ageing Boeing 747-400s. The airline has also placed options on another 24 of the jets, bringing the potential value of the order to $18.6bn at list prices. Fourteen of the 18 aircraft on firm order will replace 747s, while the remaining four will be used to up capacity on routes currently operated by older Boeing 777-200s. The first of the new aircraft will be delivered in 2022 while the last of the 34 Jumbos currently in the fleet will be retired by 2024.
British Airways will introduce the first of at least 18 Boeing 777-9s into its fleet in 2022. (British Airways)
Willie Walsh, chief executive of British Airways' parent IAG, said: "The new B777-9 is the world’s most fuel efficient long-haul aircraft and will bring many benefits to British Airways’ fleet. It is the ideal replacement for the Boeing 747 and its size and range will be an excellent fit for the airline's existing network."
British Airways previously announced that Boeing 787-10 and Airbus A350-1000s would be the backbone of the 747 replacements and while the status of the order for these aircraft is currently not in question, the new order points to the airline facing a need for more large airliners. The airline had also previously expressed interest in acquiring additional Airbus A380s new from the manufacturer or on the second hand market. The new jets are larger than British Airways' existing 777-200s and 777-300s, and will incorporate technology already found in the 787 Dreamliner including larger windows, and a lower cabin altitude and improved humidity levels.
Walsh continued: "This aircraft will provide further cost efficiencies and environmental benefits with fuel cost per seat improvements of 30% compared to the Boeing 747. It also provides an enhanced passenger experience."
British Airways' commitment to the 777X program gives Boeing a boost, as it has struggled to attract orders for the type recently and will roll out the prototype in Seattle on March 13. The 777X has been ordered by airlines based in the Middle East and Asia, as well as Lufthansa and the backlog now stands at 344 units - 53 777-8s and 291 777-9s.
British Airways commitment to the 777X was announced at the same time as its annual results were revealed. The firm increased its operating profit to €323bn, an increase of 9.5% versus 2018, and ahead of market expectations of €3.15bn. Meanwhile, revenue increased by 6.7% to €24.4bn.
Walsh commented: "This was a very good performance despite three significant challenges: fuel prices increasing 30%, considerable air-traffic control disruption and an adverse foreign exchange impact of €129m."
Text © The Aviation Oracle