Emirates Reconsidering Huge 777X Order

Filed Under: Emirates

Production of the A380 ending in 2021 sure is having Emirates rethink their strategy. This could potentially be a big blow for Boeing, and also reflect the direction the airline is headed.

Before we get into the news, lets recap Emirates’ current fleet plans.

Emirates’ current fleet plans

Currently Emirates’ fleet consists exclusively of Airbus A380s and Boeing 777s:

On top of that, Emirates currently has the following planes on order:

  • 35 Boeing 777-8s
  • 115 Boeing 777-9s
  • 40 Airbus A330-900neos
  • 30 Airbus A350-900s

For an airline that previously had such a simple fleet, that sure is quite a complex strategy going forward.

There are a few things to note:

  • Of these plane types, the 150 Boeing 777Xs were the first to be ordered; these are intended to replace existing 777s, and were ordered before any A380 news was revealed
  • The A330-900neo and A350-900 order came as a result of production of the A380 ending; Emirates swapped some of their A380 orders for these planes
  • Emirates had signed a letter of intent to order 40 Boeing 787-10s, but they never executed that agreement; I imagine this was a casualty of Emirates’ Airbus order

The latest news on Emirates’ future fleet

Emirates President Tim Clark had some interesting things to say in a Seattle Times interview. He confirmed that Boeing and Emirates are currently concluding renegotiations with regards to the 777X.

This is really significant because currently there are 344 orders for the Boeing 777X, and 150 of those are in order. So they represent well over 40% of the orders for this plane, and up until now it didn’t seem like that order was in jeopardy at all.

Apparently Emirates is considering deferring or substituting at least part of their 777X order. Clark has said that Emirates plans to keep their order around the same number of planes, though the reality is that if the plane is deferred far enough into the future, it’s barely a sure thing anymore.

Emirates is also looking at possibly substituting part of their 777X order for 787s instead.

Emirates had signed a letter of intent for 40 Boeing 787-10s but never executed that, so it sounds like they may now be looking to swap around part of their order, and maybe pick up some 787s at the expense of some 777 orders.

So Clark is suggesting that the airline may instead still order Boeing 787s, though they’re more likely to go with the -9 variety rather than the -10 variety. That’s because he views the 787-10 as being very similar to the A330-900neo, so there’s no need to have both plane types (meanwhile the 787-9 has substantially better range).

Emirates A330-900neo

While we’ll have to wait and see how these talks unfold, it sure seems to me like:

  • Emirates wants some Boeing 787s, most likely the -9 variety rather than the -10 variety
  • While Emirates is saying they’ll keep roughly the same number of planes on order, the reality is that if they defer deliveries long enough it’s far from a sure bet

Emirates is supposed to start taking delivery of 777-9s in 2020, and of 777-8s in 2021. In my opinion the most likely outcome here is that:

  • Emirates keeps their entire order for 115 777-9s, but perhaps spreads the delivery out over a longer period
  • Emirates cancels or substantially defers their 777-8s, and replaces them with a 787-9 order

While the 777-9 has been popular, the 777-8 has received fewer orders. It’s a smaller version of the new 777X, and it doesn’t really have that many advantages over the variants of the 787.

Emirates 787-10 rendering

Bottom line

It sure seems like Emirates is taking a more conservative approach to their growth going forward, which isn’t surprising. The airline is under increased financial pressure, and on top of that one of the biggest challenges they’re facing is the introduction of longer range medium sized aircraft.

The need for Dubai as a global hub decreases as markets like Europe to Australia can be served nonstop.

I look forward to seeing what kind of an agreement Emirates and Boeing reach. I imagine we’ll see at least some swaps or deferrals on the 777X, which would be quite a blow for Boeing, which is already struggling at the moment.

  1. Can anyone shed light into the plane purchasing process? Just some random questions that come to mind. Seems like airlines are constantly deferring or changing up their orders. Are there clauses that allow this or is the letter of intent not legally binding and thus really has no meaning. Is there some type of penalty for cancelling an order?

  2. Here’s hoping they don’t opt for the 787. It would represent a significant slide in the quality of their already dismal Economy offering.

  3. @Johnny I assume a customer as important as Emirates, with tens of billions of dollars in outstanding orders, would be given quite a lot of leeway by both Airbus and Boeing when it comes to renegotiating and changing orders.

  4. “The need for Dubai as a global hub decreases as markets like Europe to Australia can be served nonstop.”

    That feels to me like the most significant strategic reason for rethinking: I think even Qantas has been surprised by the success of Perth-London. If – as seems certain – Airbus and Boeing rise to the challenge of producing planes which can fly direct from Sydney and Melbourne to London, then a huge amount of Dubai transfer traffic simply disappears.

    Emirates has been close to Qantas, so my guess is that they’ve been talking about the strategic future.

    News published in today’s Guardian that the 787s appear to have yet another worrying fault – this time an engine fire extinguisher swiitch that has a propensity to fail, and no manual override or alternative extinguisher system – must also be beginning to make airlines a bit wary of putting too many eggs into Boeing’s basket?

  5. Two observations…

    Although EK is done with their 77W deliveries, Boeing still has 6 more on the order book for EK. Anyone know the story behind those six frames?

    I can’t recall when or where but I remember EK saying the life expectancy of the airframes in their fleet is 12 years then they get sold off or re-leased with a different airline. This is a very poor strategy and drives up capital costs. EK needs to reconsider this strategy if they want to remain competitive on the cost side.

  6. So what reason to stop over on the gulf in future, if travelling on the turbulent and cheapskate 787s?

    Is there still a justifiable reason in premium unless you like the gaudy glitz, when Emirates are no longer competitively priced for business against the European direct Airlines and also lack the key alliance benefits?
    The loungeless Business Fares in particular is a bad move for an international airline lacking in any Alliance Benefit Tier.

  7. I don’t quite understand this sentence – is there a word missing?

    “This is really significant because currently there are 344 orders for the Boeing 777X, and 150 of those are in order.”

  8. Just experienced a350 for the first time days ago and all i can say is wow! Airlines opting for 787 is just a big downgrade for passengers of all classes.

  9. Can you do a comparison of these aircraft models – capacity, range, list price, possible configuration and any other unique features?

  10. @ Frederik

    “no longer competitively priced for business against the European direct Airlines”

    Because there’s a limit to the number of direct city pairs that can be offered. LHR, for example, is close to capacity so can offer direct flights to no more than half a dozen to, say, Indian cities. But if I fly via Doha I get a choice of 13 Indian cities, or 10 from Dubai.

    But what will not be available to Emirates in a year or two is traffic on trunk routes that can then be flown direct – such as London-Sydney.

  11. ” I imagine we’ll see at least some swaps or deferrals on the 777X, which would be quite a blow for Boeing, which is already struggling at the moment.”
    Boeing got a +$ 6 Billions order from the US military.Not really struggling to win orders from the White House .
    If Boeing is struggling at the moment on the World Commercial Aviation side, it is entirely Boeing’s fault (Dreamliners,737 MAx, Wings ‘problems,Pilots training etc)

  12. It’s surprising that Emirates would prefer the A350-900 over the 787-10. The -10 is substantially lighter, carries more passengers, and has better fuel economy with smaller engines. The one advantage the A350 has is maximum range, but the 787-10 can fly from Dubai to any city in Europe, Africa, and Asia, as well as to the West Coast of Australia and the East Coast of the US. For all those routes, the 787 would have a lower cost per seat than the A350. For the relatively few very long range routes, the 787-9 or 777-8 would be excellent alternatives which are pilot compatible with the 787-10.

  13. House of cards is falling down falling down falling down.
    Emirates is falling down, My fair Tim Clark.

    Build it up with oil and cash oil and cash oil and cash.
    Burn it all with oil and cash, My fair Tim Clark.

    Oil and cash will disappear disappear disappear.
    Subsidies will disappear, My fair Tim Clark.

    Build it up with Three Eight ty Three Eight ty Three Eight ty
    Build it up with Three Eight ty, My fair Tim Clark.

    Three Eight ty is not as full not as full not as full.
    Three Eight ty is not as full, My fair Tim Clark.

    Seven Eight Seven can fly nonstop fly nonstop fly nonstop.
    Seven Eight Seven can fly nonstop, My fair Tim Clark.

    Three Fif ty can fly nonstop fly nonstop fly nonstop.
    Three Fif ty can fly nonstop, My fair Tim Clark.

    No need stops at DXB DXB DXB
    No need stops at DXB, My fair Tim Clark.

    DXB will disappear disappear disappear.
    DXB will disappear, Go ask Gander. (and Beirut)

    The ME3 end is near end is near end is near
    The ME3 end is near, My dear oil Sheikhs.

  14. The problem with Emirates is they are downgrading their product. I would never fly a direct flight from MEL to LHR !!! Even in First or C. Not talking about economy, that I do not use. But 18 to 20 hours in a plane (probably with no loungue (not to talk about the showers) would be hell !!! I will gladly still make a stop-over in Dubai to strech my legs and smoke a cigar. Let’s see what comes around …

  15. Don’t forget about the secret weapon behind the curtain that is about to be unveiled. The 319 t A350-1000 with a range of 8700nm is now available. I can’t think of better aircraft to solve most of Emirates problems. I would be on look out for this plane

  16. A fleet of 100 747-8s might make me find Emirates interesting…otherwise, fly non-stop and avoid mediocrity.

  17. Emirates is only good for their A380s (from a passenger experience/comfort perspective). Their 777s are terrible and in-flight service is lackluster 80% of the time. I can’t see myself traveling on them once the A380s are gone. And this is coming from someone who has access to lounges because of Qantas status.

  18. It is a bit odd that Emirates ordered the a330neo and I’m wondering if they’re planning to focus on more regional flights?

    I’m curious to see if Airbus will start to re-look into the A350-2000 now that the A380 is coming to an end 🙁

  19. Also I wonder if Emirates regretted going to only operating the 777 and a380 as they are long haul jets that wouldn’t be efficient operating shorter flights.

    And perhaps Emirates is trying to position it’s fleet with more Airbus aircraft as a way for their a380 pilots to transition over to the a330 and a350s as the too share a type rating reducing cost.
    I imagine it would be harder to transition from an a380 to a 777x than to a330’s and a350’s.

  20. For those of us who are ( unfortunately) regulars on the economy trip from east coast Australia to the UK trust me a 90 min stop in Singapore ( or other hub ) makes little difference ( especially if you only have access to the “ gold “ SQ lounge – lol ) I’d rather just go non stop

  21. All you 350 lovers wait until more airline start converting their Y cabin to 10 abreast. Yes folks same as the 777 in Y except with a narrower airframe. That should be delightful.
    Agree that 78X may be specialised airplane but it has over 1,000 nm range than the 789 and almost 900 nm more than the 359. This airplane would be able to do some ultra long routes for EK while still carrying cargo, something the 380 has a hard time doing on routes like LAX & SFO.
    Even though outstanding 777 orders for EK are shown as 77W I am sure they can substitute them with the 77F if needs be.

  22. @Oscar — “Here’s hoping they don’t opt for the 787. It would represent a significant slide in the quality of their already dismal Economy offering.”
    @tolikfox — “Just experienced a350 for the first time days ago and all i can say is wow! Airlines opting for 787 is just a big downgrade for passengers of all classes.”

    So some are indicting the 787 on account of how *airlines* chose to *configure* theirs? Why do they think that the 787 can *not* be *configured* to be just as high-end as *any* 350 or even the 380? Has anyone even bothered to look inside the DeerJet 787 private jet before making such unfounded comments about the 787 airframe?

  23. Some corrections here. A330-900 and B787-9 have extremely similar capacity. B787-10 capacity is comparable to B777-200ER and A350-900.

    B777-9, B787-9 and A350 sounds like the best mix for them now.

  24. Emirates wants to launch direct flights to the smaller US cities without need of freedom rights and therefore they need a less capacity plane with the range thats why they are taking on the 789.

    The 777 and the 787 planes are my best though i love the 777 more …. fingers crossed for more and more 777X orders during the paris airshow

  25. The A380 choice is in Dubai.. That is a good reason to take stopovers and alternative routes now and then.. I am used to Emirates and Dubai.. It is indeed a shame they are losing name fame and lustre..(bling bling)
    Going eastwards at least.. My routes are usually EU to (S. E.) Asia
    I am fed up with 777 economy and business (unless free upgrade)
    Love to try the A350Neo.. Even if Dreamliner economy seats are better than in 777ER I just don’t care for that plane..nor the 737s horror.. Airbus wins since B747 left in my region

  26. @NickSJ

    The Airbus uses a conventional bleed air system, so the A350 and the A330NEO in particular, are much more efficient at high density shorter trips than the 787.

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