Boeing delays production of new 777-X airliner

Boeing has pushed back the launch date of an ultra-long range version of its forthcoming 777X widebody aircraft as it continues to face the crisis surrounding its 737 MAX jet.

The fresh delay comes as the grounding of Boeing's money-spinning 737 MAX single-aisle entered its sixth month in August, and as the world's largest planemaker grapples with engine delays on the 777X widebody, pushing the first flight of the 777-9 into 2020.

The delay in the longer-range 777-8 will hamper Boeing's ability to provide a plane in line with the schedule for Qantas' plan for non-stop, 21 hour Sydney-London flights.

The Australian airline had hoped for first deliveries of the planes in 2022 and the launch of the world's longest commercial flight in 2023.

The decision effectively means Boeing engineers have frozen development work on the ultra-long-range version of the 777X. The schedule delay could jeopardise Boeing's relationship with airlines planning to launch ultra-long-haul flights, with European arch-rival Airbus putting offers on the table.

Airbus - which is offering an ultra-long-range version of its A350-1000 - had already submitted its "best and final" offers to Qantas, as had Boeing, for planes capable of the 17,000 km Sydney-London route, a Qantas spokesperson said.

Qantas will announce its decision on which aircraft it has chosen later this year.

An Airbus spokesperson said details of its discussions with Qantas remained confidential, but said the A350 was a "perfect solution" for the airline's needs. 

Air New Zealand had to make a decision similar to the one facing Qantas earlier this year.

It chose to order Boeing 787-10 Dreamliners over the now delayed Boeing 777X and Airbus A350.