Since 2016, the Dubai-based airline Emirates has operated just two types of aircraft – its flagship double-deck Airbus A380 and the popular Boeing 777 range of aircraft. That matters because Emirates has been able to provide a consistent experience on an all widebody fleet of aircraft – even on the shortest of flights in the airline’s route network. It seems like a pretty risky strategy to try to fill so many seats on even the thinnest of routes but Emirates has seemingly made a success of it.
But it turns out that Emirates has just taken delivery of its 190th and last ever 777-300ER aircraft. Emirates is the largest operator of Boeing 777 family aircraft in the world and according to the airline, it’s also the only carrier in the world to have operated all six variants of the aircraft – at present, the airline also operates smaller 777-200 passenger aircraft as well as freighter versions for its Emirates SkyCargo services.
Not that Emirates is still operating all 190 of the 777’s it has taken delivery of over the years. The first was delivered to the airline in March 2005 after the airline placed a massive initial order for 120 of the aircraft in 2004. With an average age of just six and a half years, many of the new deliveries throughout the years have been used to replace older models that have been sold on to other operators.
“The Boeing 777-300ER has been a cornerstone of Emirates’ success story as the world’s largest international airline,” explained Sir Tim Clark, the President of Emirates.
“The aircraft’s efficiency, range and payload capabilities have enabled us to connect our customers across six continents to and through Dubai, and offer them a flight experience that is second to none.”
But just because Emirates has taken delivery of its last ever 777-300 doesn’t mean the aircraft type will start to disappear from the Emirates fleet altogether. Boeing is currently working on the next generation 777X aircraft and Emirates has already placed an order for 150 of these new aircraft from the Seattle-based aerospace giant.
Boeing, which has said the 777X project is slightly behind schedule, is still working on the first test aeroplane which is expected to take its first flight next year. Deliveries are then expected in 2020, with the launch customer now likely to be Emirates who have already signed a deal with Thales for a next-generation in-flight entertainment system that will debut on the 777X.
By 2022, Emirates’ fleet will broaden still further with the first delivery of a Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner. The airline announced a shock order worth $15.1 billion USD at list value for 40 of the aircraft at last years Dubai Airshow. The 787-10 is the largest of the Dreamliner family aircraft and was designed primarily for mid-haul operations.
The relationship between Emirates and Boeing has been an important one – especially in light of criticism from some quarters in the United States who say the Persian Gulf airline risks wiping out American jobs as it expands its North American route network. Emirates, though, says its commitment to American-made aircraft has supported hundreds of thousands of U.S.-based jobs. The 787 order alone, will secure 78,000 additional American jobs according to the airline.
The future of the flagship A380 remains less certain – Emirates already has more than 100 of the double-deck aircraft in its fleet and earlier this year placed a multi-billion dollar order for up to 36 more in what was widely seen as a lifeline deal for the superjumbo. Since then, however, wrangling between the airline and engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce has put the whole deal at risk.