Emirates says it must be convinced the A350 will not repeat recent “misses” by Airbus in performance and delivery targets for new aircraft if it is to beat the Boeing 787 in the long-running battle to replace the airline’s 777-200ER fleet from the end of the decade.

Emirates airline president Tim Clark says the carrier’s requirement for a 777-200ER replacement is for an aircraft capable of seating 280 passengers in a three-class configuration or 320-340 passengers in two classes. “We continue to evaluate the A350-900 and 787-9 and proposed -10X,” he says.

While the larger size of the A350 over the 787-9 makes it the front-runner, Clark says recent experiences with new Airbus types not meeting all the manufacturer’s promises is partly responsible for Emirates’ indecision. “The A350-900 is a brilliant machine if it does what Airbus says it will, and we’ve told them that misses [on performance or delivery promises] will be unacceptable.”

Boeing is studying a double stretch of the 787, the -10X, primarily for Emirates’ needs, which Clark says is likely to be superior to the A350-900. But it is not certain this aircraft will be launched in the near future, and service entry is unlikely before 2012 – two years behind the A350 as now scheduled.

Emirates and Boeing stole the show with a huge $9.7 billion deal for up to 62 777s – comprising firm orders for 24 777-300ERs, 10 -200LRs and eight 777 Freighters, plus options on 20 more. Clark says the 777 deal does not affect its existing fleet of five A340-500s, and the airline still plans to take delivery of the 12 A340-600 high gross-weight aircraft it is due to receive in 2007-8.

Source: Flight International