Late Friday night the Boeing machinist union voted to accept management’s latest contract offer.
I predicted it would be a close vote but I thought the local union leadership would sway enough folks to vote no even though they were likely casting a vote to phase out their jobs long-term.
It was close (51-49) but the union voted yes, which means, in theory, labor harmony until next decade and a firm decision by Boeing to build the vast majority of the 777X in the Seattle area.
The 777X is likely the last “new” plane Boeing will build in my lifetime. The 787-9 and -10 are out on the board, due to be built over the next few years. Collectively, the 3 variants of the 787, the 777X, the 737MAX and the 747-8i are likely the planes that Boeing will vie for market share against Airbus with. It likely means those of us that fly a lot will spend a lot of time on these planes. And, for overseas flights the 777X will round out a full suite of options for international carriers for decades to come.
Boeing is positioning the 777X to hold roughly 350-400 passengers at max capacity. They’re also positioning it as a more comfortable version of 10-across seating in coach. I’ll be honest. I’ve never flown long-haul coach. I’m sure I will at some point, but it’s not an experience I look forward to, especially since the airlines are consistently adding more seats than Boeing intended. The 787 was supposed to be a comfy 8 across in coach when it launched. But, lots of airlines decided to make it 9 seats for a decidedly less comfortable fit. Does that mean the 777X sports 11 seats per row in coach at some point? I’m not sure if that math works or not. But, if the airlines can, they will.
They’ll implement significant carbon fiber into the design of the 777X wing and likely the frame as well. Combined with the new GE engine the wing and frame enhancements should make for a fuel-efficiency rating that may be able to move the 777X beyond Airbus’ A350, even though Airbus has a head start.
It’s my opinion that the union made the right decision here. These jobs are still better jobs than a lot of folks have right now. They likely will be for at least the next decade.
With tax breaks and what has the potential to be a healthy union situation for quite some time, Boeing is poised to learn from the mistakes of the 787 and make the 777X a dominant long-distance plane.
Hopefully this can all blow over now and we Seattleites can go back to what we do best: drinking coffee and complaining about the weather.