Emirates Airline's president Tim Clark has reiterated his belief that Boeing must respond to the threat that the Airbus A350 offers to the 777 ahead of a visit to the US airframer for an update on its plans.
Emirates has been a big proponent of the 777, with 58 in service and a further 48 on order. The Dubai carrier has ordered a total of 71 777-300ERs (including lease deals) but became a launch customer for the A350 at the Dubai air show last year, with orders for 50 -900s and 20 -1000s, along with 50 options.
However, Clark said at the time of placing the A350 order that it did not "address the retirement of our 777-300ERs post-2016" and has been pushing Boeing to move forward with a succession plan for its big twinjet. He says that based on the contractual performance Emirates has from Airbus, the slightly smaller A350-1000 will pose a significant threat to the 777-300ER: "Although it carries fewer passengers, on long-range missions the -1000 will offer lower operating costs, and that advantage increases as the sectors get shorter."
Boeing intends to examine potential upgrades for the 777-300ER to counter the threat of the A350-1000, but said recently that the driver for these would be the "real performance" of the Airbus twinjet. This, the largest A350 variant, is due to enter service around 2015.
Clark says that he is scheduled to visit Seattle soon where he expects to talk to Boeing about its plans for the 777 as well as get an update on the 747-8I, which Emirates continues to evaluate but is still a little short of performance that the airline requires.
As Airbus works towards the A350 design freeze in the fourth quarter, Clark says the carrier is "working very closely with the design team in Toulouse" on the aircraft's specification. He adds that the airline is satisfied with the progress of the A350's design development so far.