Emirates President Tim Clark (understandably) isn’t happy with Airbus and Boeing, given the planes that the Dubai-based airline has on order. Unfortunately I’m not sure there’s a whole lot that he can do, given that global commercial aircraft manufacturing is essentially a duopoly.
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The aircraft Emirates has on order
Emirates currently operates a fleet of 250+ aircraft, consisting exclusively of Airbus A380 and Boeing 777 aircraft. With Airbus A380 production having ended, and current generation Boeing 777s more or less being outdated, the airline is looking to other aircraft for fleet renewals.
Specifically, Emirates has ordered the following aircraft:
- 50 Airbus A350-900s, with deliveries expected to start in 2023(ish)
- 30 Boeing 787-9s, with deliveries expected to start in 2023(ish)
- 115 Boeing 777Xs, with deliveries expected to start in 2024 (ish)
The problem is that at this point the delivery timeline for just about all Emirates future delivery aircraft is up in the air, and that poses a major issue.
Emirates’ issues with future delivery aircraft
In an interview with Airline Ratings, Emirates President Tim Clark expressed frustration about all the planes that the airline has on order. What’s the problem?
The biggest issue is with the Boeing 777X, since this will eventually become the backbone of Emirates’ fleet. Clark calls the current situation with Boeing “a complete mess.” Emirates was supposed to take delivery of its first 777X in April 2020, but that timeline has slipped significantly. Currently Boeing is hoping for the 777X to be certified by mid-2023. Clark isn’t too confident about the timeline. As he explains:
“Honestly, if it goes beyond 2023 and it goes on for another year, we probably cancel the program. What else can we do? We can’t continue the way we are. Boeing really needs to get their act together and get this aircraft sorted. Don’t forget – the aircraft was originally designed for delivery in April 2020, it’s now 2024 if we are lucky. You’ve now got a four-year delay with the program. If they got another year on it, we are going to question if this is fit for purpose or not, what’s the problem with it? I hope it doesn’t happen, as there is nowhere else we could go. They are building the biggest aircraft and we want it. It was done at our request back in 2010, I don’t even want to think about it not being happening.”
It’s one thing if it were just the 777X Emirates was having issues with, but the Boeing 787-9 isn’t much better. Boeing is now having Boeing 787 production issues, and the 737 MAX fiasco is only going to make certification of these planes more challenging. As Clark explains:
“The total of 30 787s in there look very marginal now as they are so far behind in production. They were supposed to come in May 2023. But it’s not going to happen, how can they deliver? Look at the huge backlog, they haven’t produced any aircraft lately, that’ll take them two or three years to go over that. They got production and quality control issues that they admit, and now after the MAX crisis with the regulator saying ‘we want to have a good look at everything’, that is slowing the whole thing down.”
Then there’s the Airbus A350 issue. Qatar Airways has been having major issues with the A350 fuselage degrading at an accelerated rate, and Emirates is concerned about this. As Clark describes the situation:
“Fact is, it is an issue. I am not unsympathetic to Qatar Airways. We made it absolutely clear in Toulouse now that, if we have the same problem on one of our aircraft, we won’t take them over. Akbar Al Baker told me, not sure if it is true, that there were aircraft that hadn’t been delivered yet, that were also showing signs of that problem. Akbar is a bit like us, he probably learned from us that we will not accept anything but perfection. That’s not unreasonable, isn’t it? Our engineers looked at these A350s and said they are not in a good shape. So we say to Toulouse: By the delivery of the A350, you will have cracked this problem, otherwise, you will face us with no deliveries either.”
Clark is one of the brightest guys in the industry. He has a great pulse on what’s going on, and I think he’s also incredibly reasonable. All of his concerns about Airbus and Boeing seem totally fair to me — these are very real issues. But when both aircraft manufacturers aren’t delivering on their promises, where else is Emirates supposed to turn?
It’s not a good time when it comes to future delivery wide body orders, between Boeing 787 production delays, concerns about Airbus A350 fuselages, and the Boeing 777X being delayed by years. Understandably Emirates is frustrated by this, given that these are the three aircraft the airline has on order.
All of Clark’s statements are completely warranted and fair, especially for Boeing, which is having major issues with both of its wide bodies (the A350 issues, meanwhile, seem to be a bit more niche). I’m curious to see how this all plays out.
What do you make of Clark’s frustration with Airbus and Boeing?