Boeing 777 vs. 787: How Do They Compare?

If you’re flying long-haul these days, there’s a good chance you’ll be flying on a Boeing 777 or 787. The 777 was first launched in 1995 and so far has received around 2,350 orders, whilst the 787 was first launched in 2011 and so far has received over 1,900 orders.

In this article, I’ll compare these two Boeing widebody aircraft from a number of different perspectives just as we have done before with different aircraft pairings.

Boeing 777 vs. 787

History

The 777-200 was launched in 1989 to fill the gap in Boeing’s product catalog between the 747 and the 767. The first 777-200 delivery took place in 1995 and was followed by an increased weight and range variant – the 777-200ER, which entered service in 1997. ETOPS (180 minutes) approval for the 777 came in 1995 with the launch of the 777-200.

After the 777-200, Boeing developed a stretched 777. With a length of almost 74m, the 777-300 became the longest airliner ever produced until it was superseded by the Airbus A340-600. The 777-300 delivered 20% more capacity compared to the 777-200, and went into service in 1998.

In 2000, Boeing launched its next-generation twinjet program. The first model to emerge from the program, the 777-300ER went into service in 2004 and went on to become a hugely successful product, combining the capacity of the 777-300 with the 777-200ER’s range.  Another long-range model, the 777-200LR, went into airline service in 2006.

The 777F went into service in 2009 and was based on the structural design and engine specifications of the 777-200LR, and fuel tanks that were derived from the 777-300ER.

Boeing 777-300ER

In 2013, Boeing formally launched the 777-8 and 777-9. The 777-9 will be a stretched, higher-capacity version of the 777-8 with a slightly lower range.  Both models are to be equipped with new generation GE9X engines and feature new composite wings with folding wingtips. At 76.72m long, the 777-9 will become the world’s longest airliner, topping the 76.25m long 747-8.

Delivery of these latest 777 aircraft has been delayed a number of times, with Boeing now estimating 2025 for the 777-9.  

The main 777 variants are listed below:

Aircraft ModelTypeFirst In Service
777-200Passenger1995
777-200ERPassenger1997
777-200LRPassenger2006
777-300Passenger1998
777-300ERPassenger2004
777FFreighter2009
777-8Passenger
777-8FFreighter2027 est.
777-9Passenger2025 est.

The Boeing 787 family comprises of three variants:

Aircraft ModelTypeFirst In Service
787-8Passenger2011
787-9Passenger2014
787-10Passenger2018

The 787 development was driven by a need to produce more fuel-efficient aircraft. Boeing targeted 20% less consumption than the aircraft that the 787 was to replace, such as the 767, with a carrying capacity of 200 to 300 passengers to be deployed particularly on point-to-point routes of up to 8,500nm (15,700km). The 787 was the first airliner developed with an airframe made mostly from composite materials. It has a distinctive and recognizable appearance with its four-window cockpit and its raked wingtips.

The first 787 was delivered to ANA in 2011.  The stretched 787-9 entered service in 2014, also with ANA. The further stretched 787-10 entered service with Singapore Airlines in 2018.

Boeing 787-8 and 787-9

Dimensions

Let’s take a look at some key physical characteristics and see how the passenger versions of these two aircraft measure up against each other:

Aircraft ModelLength/ mWingspan/ mTail Height/ mFuselage Width/ mMTOW/t
777-200/ 200ER63.7360.9318.55.86247.2 – 297.6
777-200LR64.8018.6347.5
777-30073.8660.9318.5299.4
777-300ER64.80351.5
777F63.7318.6347.8
777-869.7972.80/ 64.85 (folded) 5.96351.5
777-8F70.9 365.1
777-976.72 351.5
B787-856.7260.1216.925.77227.9
B787-962.8117.02254.0
B787-1068.28

In broad terms, the 777 is bigger, wider, and heavier than the 787, except for the 787-10 which is longer than some of the earlier 777 variants, although the 787-10 will be slightly shorter than the 777-8, and significantly shorter than the stretched 777-9.  

Range

The 777 variants, including freighters, have a wide spread of ranges varying from around 8,600km to 16,200km, with the 777-8 expected to have the longest range of all 777 variants.

In contrast, all of the 787 variants have relatively long ranges which vary from around 11,700km to 14,000km.

Aircraft ModelRange
777-2005,240nm (9,700km)
777-200ER7,065nm (13,080km)
777-200LR8,555 nm (15,843 km)
777-3006,030nm (11,165km)
777-300ER7,370 nm (13,649 km)
777-300ERSF4,650nm (8,610km)
777F4,970nm (9,200km)
777-88,730nm (16,170km)
777-8F4,410nm (8,170km)
777-97,285nm (13,500km)
B787-87,305nm (13,530km)
B787-97,565nm (14,010km)
B787-106,330nm (11,730km)

The 787 has proven to be a highly adaptable all-purpose aircraft operating some of the longest direct air routes in the world such as Tokyo-Boston, Los Angeles-Melbourne, and the incredible London-Perth route. But it is also deployed by some airlines on some very short routes such as domestic routes in Japan, confirming how versatile this aircraft can be.

Seat Capacity

The 777 and 787 families typically carry anywhere between 230 and 400 passengers.

The table below shows the typical 2-class cabin configuration seating capacities of a number of 777 and 787 variants published by Boeing.

ModelPassengers (Typical 2-Class Seating)
777-200LR317
777-300ER396
777-8384
777-9426
B787-8248
B787-9296
B787-10336

In practice, we see a huge variety around these numbers as airlines have fitted out these aircraft in 1-class, 2-class, 3-class, and even 4-class configurations. Seat numbers per aircraft therefore widely, depending on the number of classes, the proportion of the cabin dedicated to premium cabins, and whether flatbed seats are installed in the premium cabins.

We can see these wide variations if we look at some examples:

787 Seating Configuration Examples

  • United Airlines has configured its 4-class 787-8s to have 243 seats.
  • United Airlines has configured its 3-class 787-9s to have 252 seats and its 4-class 787-9s to have 257 seats.
  • United Airlines has configured its 4-class 787-10s to have 318 seats.
  • British Airways operates 3-class 787-8s with 214 seats, and 4-class 787-9s with 216 seats.

777 Seating Configuration Examples

I researched the seating plans for carriers with large 777 fleets such as Cathay Pacific, Lufthansa, American Airlines, Air New Zealand, British Airways, Qatar Airways, Emirates, Singapore Airlines, and United Airlines to find typical seat numbers for 2, 3, and 4-class cabin configurations:

AirlinesAircraft Model(s)No. of ClassesAverage Total Seats
Emirates
Qatar Airways
777-200LR2283
United Airlines
Emirates
American Airlines
British Airways
777-200, 777-200LR, 777-200ER3309
British Airways777-200ER4234
Cathay Pacific
Emirates
Qatar Airways
777-300, 777-300ER2398
Emirates
Cathay Pacific
Air New Zealand
Qatar Airways
United Airlines
777-300, 777-300ER3350
British Airways
American Airlines
Cathay Pacific
Singapore Airlines
777-300ER4283

The twin-aisle 777 typically has 3 to 4 seats abreast in first-class cabins, 4 to 6 seats in business class (with 8 seats abreast in British Airways’ opposing seat’ layout), 8 seats in premium economy, and 9 to 10 seats in economy class.

The twin-aisle 787 typically has eight or nine seats abreast in economy class (3-2-3, 2-4-2, 3-3-3), although nine seats abreast is a more common configuration. Seat rows can be arranged in four to seven abreast in first or business, e.g. 1–⁠2–⁠1, 2–⁠2–⁠2, or 2–⁠3–⁠2. As an example, British Airways 4-class B787s are four abreast in first class (2-2), seven abreast in business and premium economy class (2-3-2), and nine abreast in economy class (3-3-3).

Boeing 787-10

Customers and Orders

Comparing all orders received for 777 and 787 aircraft as of the end of September 2022 we can see that the 787-9 is the most popular of all variants, followed by the 777-300ER.

Boeing 777 and 787 Orders by Variant

By the end of September 2022, Boeing had received 2,347 orders for the 777 in total since its launch in 1990. The most popular 777 to date is the 777-300ER which received a total of 880 orders, or 37.5% of the total 777 orders.

By the end of September 2022, the 787 has received more than 1,900 orders from more than 70 customers around the world, which have been attracted to the type’s fuel efficiency and its relatively long range.

The top 777 customer (all variants) to date is Emirates which has ordered a total of 291 777s, followed by Qatar Airways which has ordered 159 777s. United Airlines is the top US customer with 127 777 orders so far.

Boeing 777 Customers

To the end of September 2022 there are 441 unfulfilled orders for the 777, as follows:

  • 777-300ER – 6 aircraft
  • 777-X (777-8 and 777-9) – 353 aircraft, with nearly two-thirds of these going to Middle-Eastern carriers
  • 777F – 82 aircraft.

The top 787 customer (all variants), excluding unidentified customers, to date is All Nippon Airways which has ordered a total of 96 787s, followed United Airlines with a total of 81 orders.

Boeing 787 Orders

To the end of September 2022 there are 484 unfulfilled orders for the 787, as follows:

  • 787-8 – 36 aircraft
  • 787-9 – 330 aircraft
  • 787-10 – 118 aircraft.

Boeing 777F

777 vs. 787: Summary

These two Boeing widebody aircraft share some similarities. The 777 has been around for longer than the 787 and, not surprisingly, has received more orders. However, the younger 787 has received more than 80% of the 777s orders over its much shorter lifespan. Variants of both aircraft are still in development/production.

Both are long-range aircraft that can be deployed on many long-haul routes. The 777 variants tend to be larger than the 787 variants, and so tend to have higher seating capacities, although the stretched 787-10 has similar seating capacities to some of the 777 variants.

Both are highly successful aircraft, and both have production runs that are likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

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