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The Boeing 777 vs 787 – Which Plane Is Best?


The Boeing 787 Dreamliner has been a revolutionary aircraft. It has allowed cheaper long-haul carriers to exist and insanely long routes to open. However, few people remember which aircraft’s thunder the 787 stole: The Boeing 777 family had long been the workhorse of the airline industry, and before the arrival of the Dreamliner it was thought to have its future guaranteed.

United Boeing Widebodies 777 And 787
United Airlines holds both of Boeing’s popular twin-engined widebody aircraft in its fleet. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | JFKJets.com

Now with the 787 able to easily perform many of the routes the 777 was designed for, many airlines have either upgraded or simply resigned to await the 777X’s arrival. But was it too soon? Is the Boeing 787 actually better than the Boeing 777? Let’s find out.

Naturally, the 787 was not initially designed to be a competitor to the 777. It would be crazy for Boeing to design a new plane that would compete with its own aircraft, but we can look at the comparison from an airline point of view to see which is best and most cost-effective.

LATAM Airlines Brasil Boeing 777
The 777’s dominance has been under threat. Photo: Getty Images

Boeing 777 vs Boeing 787

A great way to understand how these two families of aircraft compare, is, to start with a top-down look. Below is a table of the aircraft, ranked by how many passengers they carry configured in two classes. Specifications are according to Modern Airliners.

787-8

Length: 56.7 m (186 ft)

Wingspan: 60.1 m (197 ft, 3 in)

Capacity (2-class): 242

Range: 13,620 km (7,355 NM)

787-9

Length: 56.7 m (186 ft)

Wingspan: 60.1 m (197 ft, 3 in)

Passengers (2-class): 280

Range: 14,140 km (7,635 NM)

777-200

Length: 63.7 m (209 ft 1 in)

Wingspan: 60.9 M (199 ft 11 in)

Passengers (2-class): 400

Range: 9,700 km (5,240 NM)

777-200ER

Length: 63.7 m (209 ft 1 in)

Wingspan: 60.9 M (199 ft 11 in)

Passengers (2-class): 400

Range: 13,080 km (7,065 NM)

777-200LR

Length: 63.7 m (209 ft 1 in)

Wingspan: 64.8 m (212 ft 7 in)

Passengers (2-class): 400

Range: 15,843 km (8,555 NM)

787-10

Length: 56.7 m (186 ft)

Wingspan: 60.1 m (197 ft, 3 in)

Capacity (2-class): 330

Range: 11,910 km (6,430 NM)

777-300

Length: 73.9 m (242 ft 4 in)

Wingspan: 60.9 m (199 ft 11 in)

Passengers (2-class): 451

Range: 11,120 km (6,006 NM)

777-300ER

Length: 73.9 m (242 ft 4 in)

Wingspan: 64.8 m (212 ft 7 in)

Passengers (2-class): 451

Range: 13,649 km (7,370 NM)

As we can see above, the two smaller 787s only beat out the 777s in terms of range. However, the 787-10 comes into its own against the 777 family and will be the main aircraft we will be comparing.

Singapore Airlines 787-10
Singapore Airlines welcomed the world’s first Boeing 787-10 aircraft at Singapore Changi Airport back in March 2018. Photo: Getty Images

Passengers

The Boeing 777 series is a bigger plane than the 787 and thus is able to carry more passengers. The 787-10 is actually more effective than the 777-200 series but is beaten by the 777-300 by around 66 passengers. This is a significant number and can’t be argued.

Winner: 777

Qatar Boeing 777-300 Getty
Qatar Airways is a fan of widebody jets and its current crop of 78 Boeing 777 aircraft includes the -200 variant. Photo: Getty Images

Range

This is a bit more complicated. The 787 beats the 777-300 in range, but the smaller, lighter 777-200s and special extended-range versions of the 777 (777-300ER and 777-200LR) can fly circles around the Dreamliner.

Winner: 777

American Airlines 777-200
The Boeing 777 edges its counterpart when it comes to range. Photo: Getty Images

List Price

According to Statista, the list price of the Boeing 787-10 is $338.4 million. Meanwhile, the list price of the 777-300ER is $375.5 million. So, is the greater passenger capacity and range worth an extra $37.1 million dollars? It seems that the 787 is cheaper to deploy than nearly every variant of the 777. Will those extra passengers actually translate into at least $37 million worth of revenue over the lifetime of the aircraft?

That’s a risk many airlines may not wish to take. We should also take a second to point out that many airlines don’t actually pay list price, but around 50%.

Winner: 787

United 787-10
It hasn’t been so long since airlines have started to hit the skies with the Boeing 787-10. Photo: Getty Images

Fuel Efficiency

There is an area that we have yet to touch on, and that is fuel efficiency. The 777 series is far older than the 787 and uses construction materials that are heavier. This means that a 787 can’t only fly further on less fuel, but is far more efficient on the same routes.

The Boeing 787-9 is incredibly fuel-efficient when compared to any of the 777 series. It is without a doubt that the same can be said for the 787-10.

brand-new-qantas-787-flown-into-storage-getty
The Boeing 787 is appreciated by airlines across the globe for its efficiency compared with many other widebody options on the market. Photo: Getty Images

Winner: 787

At first, it looks like the 777 is a slam dunk, but when the 787 is cheaper to buy and operate it slowly becomes a much easier financial decision. This vs. article did not take into account issues with the engines on the 787, nor the improved flight experience for passengers on the new plane. An airline with the new 787 would be able to outperform an older 777 fleet any day of the week if it came down to customer comforts.

The current situation

The global health crisis continues to rock the aviation industry. Notably, long-haul services have been the most impacted across airline operations. Subsequently, several widebody aircraft remain on the ground, and as a result, this summer, Boeing shared that it would cut production on both the 787 and 777. The firm notes that it would reduce the 787 production rate to six units each month next year. Moreover, it would reduce the combined production rate of the 777 and 777X to two units each month in 2021.

However, with many of the world’s 777s aging, this type is looking to be the bigger casualty of the two widebodies. For instance, Japan Airlines recently decided to let go of its dedicated Boeing 777 domestic fleet. The Tokyo-headquartered carrier plans to retire its 777-200s and 777-300s within three years.

JAL 777 Getty
Japan Airlines is one of several carriers being forced to reshuffle its fleet amid ongoing travel restrictions. Photo: Getty Images

What the airlines say

Ultimately, what matters most is that those operating the jets think of their tools. Last year, United Airlines became the first carrier in the world to fly all three Dreamliner models. The Chicago-based outfit took on the 797-10 to serve on six transatlantic routes from its New York/Newark hub. The airline highlights the plane’s ability to offer an improved customer experience while helping the company meet sustainability goals as two key factors to why it took it on. Nonetheless, despite also having the 777, the firm isn’t showing any strong indication of retiring the type soon.

According to a press release seen by Simple Flying, United said the following about the 787:

“Boeing’s Dreamliners are known for dramatically improving the on board experience for customers with lower cabin altitude, better humidity, cleaner air, smoother ride and better sound quality. Additionally, the new Dreamliner provides better fuel efficiency than older aircraft, contributing to United’s commitment to reducing emissions by 50 percent by 2050.”

Even though it is the older model, airlines continue to take delivery of the -300ER. Last month, British Airways took delivery of yet another unit of the variant.

The airline’s crew members are fans of the plane. Allister Bridger, who would become director of flight operations for British Airways, previously said the following about the -300ER in a statement seen by Simple Flying:

“I think this aircraft is vitally important for the fleet, it’s a wonderful aircraft – pilots love it, it is very fuel efficient and hugely comfortable for customers.”

What about the Boeing 777X vs the Dreamliner?

Understandably, the 777X needs a mention in this article. After all, this year, it was confirmed that both the 777-8 and 777-9 aircraft will be certified as part of the 777 family. It was previously speculated that the widebody would have a separate type certificate. However, Boeing since shared that this would not be the case for the highly-anticipated project.

Altogether, the 777X has not yet been introduced. Therefore, there are barriers when placing the jet next to the 787 while we are comparing existing variants. There would be a better understanding following the plane’s entry into service.

Boeing, 777X, Testing Program
The Boeing 777X could be a game-changer for the 777 series following its introduction later this decade. Photo: Getty Images

It all depends

Altogether, which plane is better out of the Boeing 777 and the 787 comes down to the needs of the airline. Different carriers have different requirements. So, depending on the company, one factor would be more important than the other.

If an airline can continue to consistently operate long-range, high-capacity flights in the modern climate, then the 777-300ER may be the better option. However, if the range of these services remains within the 787-10’s capabilities, then the Dreamliner could be the more straightforward choice.

Which aircraft out of the Boeing 777 and 787 do you think is better? How do you compare the two planes over the years? Let us know what you think of the pair in the comment section. 



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