Boeing Is Set to Launch Its First New Jet in Nearly Five Years With 50-Plane Qatar Deal


Boeing Co. is preparing to launch the 777X freighter, its first new jet model in nearly five years, with a 50-plane commitment from Qatar Airways, people familiar with the matter said.

The announcement is set to coincide with a meeting between Qatar’s ruling emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and U.S. President Joe Biden in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 31, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing the plans. The potential multibillion-dollar deal would help showcase trade relations between the two nations and could be unveiled at the White House, though the location is still being finalized, the people said.

The Gulf carrier is expected to place a firm order for about 15 of the aircraft, the freighter version of Boeing’s largest twin-engine jet. A combination of options and conversions of existing orders would make up the rest of its commitment, the people said. A Qatar representative declined to comment on its plans. Reuters previously reported Boeing-Qatar talks around the state visit.

The deal comes as Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker spars with Airbus SE over potential flaws with a passenger version of its A350 airliners. The European planemaker last year unveiled a freighter version of the A350-1000 to challenge Boeing’s decades of dominance of the cargo-jet market. 

Wrangling with regulators has delayed the commercial debut of the first passenger 777X by at least three years to late 2023. It’s unusual for a planemaker to sell a freighter variant before the passenger version has hit the market. Boeing’s move reflects the strong market for cargo jets as e-commerce booms, as well as the struggle it faces selling 400-seat planes in a depressed travel market.