Qatar Airways is set to become one of the first airlines to retire a large fleet of Boeing 777s, but it won't mean they are leaving the Boeing fold—they are trading up, almost plane-for-plane to the new 777x models that are now coming off the assembly line.
The airline's swapping 57 777-300ERs for 60 of the largest 777x, the 777-9 which is longer and has signficiantly more seats. It also has ten of the shorter 777-8 version, which will replace its ten 777-200ERs. The 777 is the mainstay of the airline's long-haul fleet; it also has ten A380s, but is planning to phase them out. Qatar is second only to Emirates as a big 777 operator. In addition to the passenger models it's replacing, Qatar also has 21 777F freight-only planes.
Delivery of the new planes has been pushed back to start in 2022, but the airline is planning a rapid phase-in, with all of the older fleet gone by the end of 2024. Leaving even sooner are the airline's remaining A330s, which are being dropped now.
One feature of the new planes that most travelers won't see: a few of the 777-9s will be equipped with super-luxury first-class seating, possibly only four seats. Up to now, Qatar has had first class only on its A380s.
According to the airline's head, Akbar al Baker, “We are studying the possibility of having a very exclusive first class cabin of just four seats, for example.” He said it would be a “very niche product” aimed at very rich Qataris. “We have huge demand here in Qatar to two or three European destinations, so we may introduce a very small first class cabin for our local passengers who want a very exclusive first class product.”