The Emirates 777 slot machine going ka-ching at Dubai: Wiki Commons

It’s not just terminal gates that are full to overflowing, like Sydney’s T2 recently, where passengers struggled to get past one set to the next, but the tarmac beside them when airlines decide to upsize.

Boeing has avoided this problem neatly with its forthcoming 777-X family, which folds its outer wings upwards so it can park at the same gates that a current 777 does .

It tweaked that design this week, presumably to made it work as originally promised when it comes to range/payload performance, by increasing the total wing span but swallowing the additional width by making a larger fold near the wing’s ends.

The decision is reported here in Flightglobal  with comparisons to the span of the Boeing 747-8 and Airbus A380.

In airline terms, the 777-X gives carriers maybe 18 percent more seats depending of what sort of service they are offering for a jet that will fit where the existing 777 goes, plus the benefits of newer engine tech and its efficiencies, and then claws part of it back through a higher purchasing price.

The photo by Konstantin von Wedelstaedt on Wikipedia Commons at the top of the page illustrates the point. Emirates as the 777-X launch customer is going to make truck loads more money out of the same space with the same number of those jets as it can with the ones we see there today.

But it is also a reminder that within the following decade such tweaks will not be enough to fit increasingly growing jets into ground infrastructure that in some cases is up to half a century old.  Major airport redesigns may define the latter part of the 2020s.

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