Dubai carrier ponders order deferral until airframer clarifies plans for enhanced model

Airbus is touting Emirates A340-600 delivery positions to other customers at low prices, as the Dubai carrier looks set to defer its order until the manufacturer’s plans to develop an “enhanced” version of the aircraft become clearer.

Emirates was due to be one of the early operators of the Rolls-Royce Trent 500-powered A340-600 high gross weight (HGW) variant, which is now in flight testing in Toulouse, when its first aircraft arrives next year. However, the airline is concerned the manufacturer’s proposals to introduce a major upgrade to the aircraft – dubbed A340-600 Enhanced – could effectively make the current model obsolete.

“Our order is still intact, but we’ve said to Airbus: ‘let’s agree to defer until you know what you are going to do with the enhanced model’,” says Emirates president Tim Clark.

“We’ve told Airbus that we don’t want to take the [-600HGW] and then be leapfrogged by something that is a bit better,” he adds.

Although the airframer shows the Emirates A340 deal in its backlog as an order for 20 aircraft, Clark says the contract comprises 12 firm orders and eight options. He adds that the first aircraft is due to arrive in “around 16 months”, but at this point the two parties have just a verbal agreement to discuss a deferral of the order.

However, according to industry sources, Airbus is already seeking to place the Emirates A340 delivery positions with other airlines, such as fellow A340-600HGW customer Qatar Airways, at “rock-bottom prices”. Clark says he is aware that Airbus is “touting the positions around”, and says that he expects to have another meeting with Airbus in the coming weeks to discuss the manufacturer’s plans and the fate of its A340 order.

Flight International understands that the proposed new enhanced model would be feature some of the impovements being introduced on the A350 including Trent 1000-technology engines.

Additional reporting by GUY NORRIS in LOS ANGELES

Source: Flight International