During the second day of the mammoth Dubai Air Show, the city’s home airline announced a headline-grabbing deal with European aerospace giant Airbus to buy 50 of its latest generation A350 aircraft. Emirates claimed the deal is worth $16 billion based on the list value of an A350-900 coming in at $317.4 million apiece – Airbus, however, has recently stopped publishing list prices because that amount is rarely, if ever, paid by airlines once discounts are taken into account.
In this case, Emirates is likely to have won a hefty discount from Airbus as part of the aircraft manufacturers decision to drop production of its loss-making A380 model. The new deal replaces a so-called “heads of agreement” signed between the two companies in February where Emirates had originally agreed to take 40 A330neo’s and just 30 A350-900’s.
The now firm order drops the A330neo’s which were due to start being delivered from 2021 onwards. The A350’s will start joining the Emirates fleet in 2023 through 2028.
Emirates chairman and chief executive, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum said today’s deal followed a “thorough review of various aircraft options and of our own fleet plans.”
Sheikh Ahmed said he was “confident in the performance of the A350” and its Rolls-Royce powered Trent 1000 engines despite senior figures at the airline, including long respected Emirates president Sir Tim Clark, previously raising concerns about the performance of Rolls-Royce produced aircraft engines.
“Complementing our A380s and 777s, the A350s will give us added operational flexibility in terms of capacity, range and deployment,” Sheikh Ahmed continued.
“In effect, we are strengthening our business model to provide efficient and comfortable air transport services to, and through, our Dubai hub.”
For Airbus, chief executive Guillaume Faury commented: “We are honoured by Emirates’ strong vote of confidence in our newest widebody aircraft, taking our partnership to the next level. The A350 will bring unbeatable economics and environmental benefits to their fleet.”
Emirates sees opportunities for the A350 to open up new markets from its Dubai hub and hopes to put its ultra-long-haul credentials to use with flights of up to 15-hours. The airline has also pencilled in new regional destinations for the aircraft and has already committed to equipping the plane with its long-awaited new Premium Economy product.
Earlier this year, Sir Tim said the debut of Premium Economy would be delayed by around six months following production issues with Boeing’s new 777X aircraft. The product is now expected to first appear on one of its A380’s at some point next year. Emirates haven’t given any further details about A350’s interior and we don’t yet know whether it will feature a First Class cabin or any kind of social or bar area.
In 2021, Emirates will take receive the last-ever made A380 – by that point, the airline will have taken delivery of 123 of the double-deck aircraft.