Emirates Attempts To Reshuffle Boeing Orders

Filed Under: Emirates

Emirates’ entire approach to fleet planning has been challenged in the past couple of years. Currently the airline operates a simple fleet of just 777s and A380s, while the airline will be mixing it up in the future. The airline has over 200 aircraft on order, including A350-900s, 787-9s, and 777Xs.

Emirates renegotiating 777Xs & 787s

As it stands, Emirates has 145 Boeing aircraft on order, including:

  • 30 Boeing 787-9s
  • 115 Boeing 777Xs (including the 777-8 and 777-9)

Emirates was supposed to be one of the launch customers for the 777X. This is a brand new aircraft for Boeing, though entry into service for the plane has been delayed quite a bit. As of now the plan is for deliveries to begin in 2022 at the earliest.

The problem is that at this point most airlines no longer need additional planes. It’s expected that long haul travel won’t recover until 2024, so airlines want to do everything they can to push off future deliveries.

Along those lines, Emirates’ Chief Operating Officer, Adel Al Redha, had some interesting comments in the past couple of days about Emirates’ negotiations with Boeing, as reported by Bloomberg. Al Redha explains:

  • Emirates is pushing for more Boeing 777X orders to be converted into 787 orders
  • Emirates has allegedly finalized its position on the composition of the intake, but has declined to provide details
  • Emirates wants to take delivery of 787s before 777Xs, as they “offer better seat capacity”
  • Boeing wants to deliver 777Xs first, in line with the agreement made before the pandemic; as Al Redha explains, “I think Boeing would prefer to deliver the 777s before the 787 because that is a new program for them”
  • Al Redha acknowledges that “it’s a very complicated equation at this time, we don’t want to dump capacity in the airline when the airline can’t absorb capacity”

Previously the plan was for Emirates to start taking delivery of 787-9s in 2023. Could we see that timeline pushed forward, if Boeing is willing to negotiate on 777X deliveries?

Emirates wants to swap more 777Xs for 787s

Emirates has been all over with aircraft orders

Emirates has really been all over the place with its fleet plans, and that was even the case before the pandemic started. Emirates has largely been reliant on the A380, but ever since it was announced that A380 production will end, the airline has been scrambling to figure out the best strategy.

Just to look at Emirates’ situation in the past few years:

Emirates has a huge 777-9 order

Boeing’s 777X decision

Airlines around the world are currently trying to renegotiate aircraft orders, given the complete lack of demand for new planes. Obviously to some extent that’s not Boeing’s problem, in the sense that airlines agreed to these orders.

At the same time, in many cases these are long-standing Boeing customers, and the company will try to work with them as much as possible. Furthermore, this all quickly becomes Boeing’s problem when airlines aren’t able to (or willing to) pay for new planes anymore.

Emirates, Lufthansa, and Qatar, are among the first three airlines scheduled to take delivery of the 777X, except none of the airlines actually want these planes right now. So it remains to be seen if Boeing will just delay production by a further couple of years due to lack of interest, or if the aircraft manufacturer will force airlines to take delivery of planes they don’t want.

777X deliveries are expected to start in 2022

Bottom line

Emirates is actively renegotiating its aircraft orders with Boeing, as the airline is hoping to swap some 777X orders for 787-9s, and also take delivery of 787-9s before 777Xs. I’ll be curious to see what comes of these negotiations.

I could see a situation where Emirates might agree to start taking delivery of 787-9s in the next couple of years, in exchange for Boeing agreeing to delay 777Xs.

How do you see this situation playing out between Boeing and Emirates?

  1. The delays for the 777x program could be even more damaging than those of the MAX (if the max is to get flying again I think it will sell on the range and strong fuel economics).

    The 777x already has a small niche market of the Gulf and flag carriers, and with even national airlines focusing more and more on point to point, investing in the 797 or a revived 757-Neo to compete with the great selling a321LR would make more sense for Boeing. The market for very large, passenger wide bodies seems to be declining every year.

  2. This is fascinating. The 777x is set to be an amazing aircraft, but one that no airline needs for a few years. I could definitely see a situation in which Boeing delays it’s introduction until the mid 2020s when demand recovers, in return perhaps for multiple airlines increasing 787 orders which they have plenty of capacity for. The question is whether they can slow 777-300er production enough to keep the line functional for a few more years. A delay of a few years could ultimately increase demand for the 777x in the long term as the older 777Ws will be ageing out of many fleets by 2024 or 2025.

    Since the 777x was intended to be the flagship aircraft for many of these airlines, as you have pointed out before Lucky, this could halt the introduction of new first and biz hard products.

  3. So what happens?

    The 777x is going to be too”early” for its time like the A380?
    Or too “late” for the needs of the airlines?
    The programm being ended in 15 years?

  4. to be frank, i am really sorry to say this, the 777X was perfectly timed with the rise in air travel and then, someone had to play Plague Inc. on the Area 51 computers.

    Buuuut…This should hopefully cope up with the massive spike in travel demand in 2023-24. QR and EK can handle the costs of affording these planes (but now that these governments are burning money like there’s no tomorrow, with deficits on a massive rise), it could get to a point where QR and EK could be the next Etihad. No doubt on Lufthansa, they just have to burn through the money of the German taxpayers, and cheers to LH for getting the 5* recognition 8 years before launching the product.

    heck, Global Ghana could launch a new business class product called GSuites (oh snap, Google owns it), or GBiz which could be the -new Business Class product- along with $150 million dollars and they could get the 5* rating hehe

  5. @Ben – It may be worth mentioning that the “recovery” of long haul flying that IATA is predicting/guessing by 2024 is to reach or break all time record numbers. If a new all time record is required just to hit the recovery point, they’re using some pretty skewed metrics.

  6. Hi Ben or someone else, can you explain what Ben meant by “787-9s have better seat capacity”? Isn’t the 777-8 larger than 787-9?

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