Boeing has launched the highly anticipated freighter version of its 777X aircraft with an order from Qatar Airways.
The Gulf carrier placed a firm order for 34 Boeing 777X freighters with options for 16 more. The contract announced on January 31, 2022, is valued at more than $20 billion at list prices.
"We are delighted to launch Boeing's next great cargo airplane – the 777-8 Freighter – with Qatar Airways, one of the world's largest cargo carriers and our partner since the airline began operations 25 years ago," commented Boeing Commercial Airplanes President and CEO Stan Deal.
"Boeing has a long history of building market-leading freighter aircraft and Qatar Airways is honored to have the opportunity to be the launch customer for the 777-8 Freighter, an aircraft which will not only allow us to further enhance our product offering for our customers but also help us meet our objectives to deliver a sustainable future for our business," said Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker.
Qatar Airways ordered GE9X engines to power the aircraft, for a total potential order valued at $6.8 billion list price. The 777X freighters will join the 26 Boeing 777Fs and two Boeing 747 freighters currently in the fleet of Qatar Airways Cargo.
The freight market has become a key battleground during the pandemic with airlines seeking to tap into the growing market and Boeing joining rival Airbus in launching a new freighter.
Qatar had widely been expected to be the launch customer for the freighter version of the 777X.
Airbus launched a freighter version of its A350 in July 2021. But the European manufacturer is currently embroiled in a dispute with Qatar Airways over flaws on the surface of the A350s that the airline received.
On January 20, 2022, Airbus had terminated a separate contract to deliver 50 A321neo aircraft that Qatar Airways had on order.
In an unexpected addition to the order, the Gulf air carrier also signed a Memorandum of Understanding for 25 Boeing 737-10s, the largest variant of the 737 MAX family, with an option for 25 more.