According to The Seattle Times, the Dubai-based airline Emirates is reportedly in talks with Boeing to either defer, delay or even cancel parts of its massive 777X order. Emirates ordered 150 of the next-generation 777X aircraft at the 2013 Dubai Air Show in a deal which was valued at $76 billion USD at list value.
The airline is expected to be one of the launch customers of what will become the largest twin-engine aircraft in the world and the first delivery is due in mid-2020. However, sources now say Emirates is in negotiations to “substantially defer” a large chunk of that order.
Other rumours suggest Emirates might either have to try to cancel part of the order or replace them with smaller 787 Dreamliner’s. A final idea might be to defer some of the order to such a distant time in the future that the order is effectively cancelled. Sir Tim Clark, Emirates’ longtime President confirmed that a renegotiation is in the works although nothing is likely to be announced until the Dubai Air Show later this year.
Emirates has long pursued a very simple fleet strategy and operates only dual-aisle aircraft – a couple of years ago, the carrier retired its last remaining Airbus A330’s, simplifying the fleet to just the flagship Airbus A380 and the Boeing 777. Emirates has a few 777-200’s but mostly operates the stretched 777-300.
However, that fleet strategy has become increasingly confused – especially in light of Airbus’ decision to stop manufacturing the double-deck A380.
In 2017, Emirates announced a $15.1 billion deal to buy 40 medium-range 787-10 Dreamliner’s. The deal was seen as a blow to Airbus, especially as it came when negotiations on the future of the A380 project were reaching a critical point.
Then, in February, Emirates said it had done a deal with Airbus to order 40 A330-900 aircraft and 30 A350-900 aircraft. The deal was valued at $21.4 billion at list value, although Emirates is likely to have achieved a significant discount on this price. The order was part of a deal to cancel an outstanding order for 39 A380’s.
In Emirates’ annual report, the airline mysteriously failed to mention the Boeing 787 order, despite specifically talking about the Airbus order in its fleet strategy review. Sir Tim has said that the airline had to “make compromises” on the Airbus order – meaning that it probably didn’t want to take both the A330 and A350.
There’s now talk that Emirates might try to downgrade the 787-10 over to the smaller and longer range 787-9. Whatever, the case, Sir Tim says talks are a “work in progress”.
Boeing has won firm orders for 344 of the 777X aircraft – making Emirates by far the largest customer so far. Any change to the order could prove a significant blow to the project, especially in light of possible delays due to engine issues.