Carrier set to announce massive order at air show for mix of Airbus A380s, A340-600s and Boeing 777-300ERs

Emirates plans to announce a massive new order at the Paris air show in June for up to 69 additional long-range widebodies including Airbus A380-800s, high gross weight (HGW) A340-600s and Boeing 777-300ERs.

The purchases will form part of a plan designed to triple the size of the Dubai-based carrier over the next 10 years.

The announcement at the air show of a new Emirates order has been expected for several months, but the size and scope of the deal will surprise many. The new deal will comprise: 23 A380s, increasing its total order for the ultra-large aircraft to 45; 10 A340-600s, plus a similar number of options, marking a launch order for the HGW version; and 26 Boeing 777-300ERs. All will be used to provide incremental growth rather than replace existing capacity.

Emirates is already the single largest A380 customer, having increased its commitment from seven to 22 aircraft, including two freighters, in late 2001. With this latest deal the carrier will account for more than one third of the total order backlog for the 555-seat airliner. The decision to order both the 777-300ER and rival A340-600 is a surprise, but reflects the heavily discounted competing deals put on Emirates' table by Boeing and Airbus, as well leasing companies General Electric Capital Aviation Services and International Lease Finance, both of which are expected to share in the deal.

"We are working towards a 16 June announcement," Emirates confirms. "We placed a large order at the Dubai air show 2001 and it's likely that this order will be increased at Paris."

The airline had announced in 2001 a letter of intent for 25 more 777s, but at the time did not specify a version. It already operates nine standard 777-200s and 12 stretched -300 versions. Plans to phase out the former have been dropped.

The A340-600 HGW will have a maximum take-off weight of 376,000kg (828,200lb). Emirates already has six longer-range but smaller A340-500s on order to open nonstop routes from Dubai to Sydney and New York, but manufacturer delays have pushed back initial deliveries until September.

While the four-engined A340-600 and the 777-300ER twin come with only one choice of powerplant - the Rolls-Royce Trent 500 and General Electric GE90-115B respectively - the airline intends an engine competition for the A380s. The GE/Pratt & Whitney Engine Alliance GP7200 was selected last year to power Emirates' first batch of 22 aircraft.

Source: Flight International