Boeing 777-9. (Boeing)
Boeing will sell a minimum of 18 777-9 jets to British Airways in a deal with options that could have a value of $18.6 billion by list prices.
The deal is with the airline's parent company, International Airlines Group (IAG), which also owns Aer Lingus and Iberia. The commitment includes 18 firm orders and 24 options for Boeing's largest offering, which will debut next month. At the 18-jet minimum, the commitment is worth approximately $8 billion by list prices, though the terms of the deal are unknown.
The 777-9's introduction will replace the older 747 in British Airways' fleet, according to IAG CEO Willie Walsh.
"The new 777-9 is the world's most fuel-efficient long-haul aircraft and will bring many benefits to British Airways' fleet," Walsh said. "It's the ideal replacement for the 747 and its size and range will be an excellent fit for the airline's existing network. This aircraft will provide further cost efficiencies and environmental benefits with fuel-cost-per-seat improvements of 30 percent compared to the 747."
As part of ongoing efforts to modernize its fleet, British Airways has also added Boeing's smaller 787 Dreamliner in recent year. The 777-9 stands alone in its size and range profile right now thanks to Airbus' recent decision to cancel its supersize A380. Built with 787 and 737 MAX technologies incorporated, the American planemaker is pushing hard to get its 777X family jets sold and shipped in the near future, according to Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg.
"Together with the 787 Dreamliner, we are excited for the 777X to help British Airways build on its incredible legacy," said Boeing Commercial President and Chief Executive Kevin McAllister. "The 777-9, in particular, simply has no competitor in its class when it comes to efficiency and performance. It is the right-sized airplane for British Airways to efficiently serve long-range routes with heavy passenger demand."
The 777X recently went through what Boeing calls a "factory gauntlet" where all its systems are hooked up and powered on in the factory as if it were in flight so they can be monitored. First flight is expected this year and Boeing is committed to beginning deliveries in 2020. The company hasn't said when British Airways would start receiving its 777-9s, but the backlog consisted of 340 777X-family orders before this deal.