Emirates has warned that there is no guarantee that negotiations with Airbus and Boeing over a major widebody order will be finalised in time for a widely expected announcement at November's Dubai air show.
The Dubai flag carrier has been undertaking a lengthy evaluation of the A350-900 and proposed 787-10 to replace its 29 A330-200s, with a view to deliveries beginning in 2013-14. The airline is also believed to have discussed a major interim deal with Airbus for new A330s to bridge to the new fleet from 2009.
Emirates Airline president Tim Clark says that while the plan has been to "get something knocked out" for the show, he warns that "this will only be if we have what we want from Airbus and Boeing". He adds: "If the things aren't right then we won't sign."
Speaking during last week's World Air Transport Forum in Cannes, Clark said that it is "a toss-up between the 787-10, which will be flying in 2013-14, and the A350-900, which is currently 2013-14", and that he is seeking weight commitments for the A350 and greater engine thrust for the 787. He adds that a split order is unlikely.
Boeing is proposing the 787-10 as a "simple stretch" of the 787-9, using the existing engines with no more than 75,000lb thrust (334kN). But Clark believes that the stretch needs "about 83,000lb thrust to do the job".
Although Emirates was among the early campaigners for the 787-10, Clark says Boeing is not yet ready to offer formal contracts for the type.
"We are not sure we actually want to say we will go [for the A350] while [the 787] is still developing in Seattle," he says. "It all depends on commercial terms, performance guarantees and all the other bits and pieces. They are going on as we speak. If we are not ready, we will not sign."
Due to the weight growth suffered by the A340-500/600 and A380, coupled with the redesign of the A350, Clark is seeking tight guarantees from Airbus for the new twinjet.
Together with other carriers, Emirates called for the original A350 to be redesigned, and Clark says that the XWB "is now an aircraft that we are prepared to take seriously and study seriously".