Emirates appears to have shrugged off initial concerns over the performance capabilities of the Boeing 787-10 in the hot-weather conditions of Dubai.
The airline has an agreement for 40 aircraft, which the carrier would introduce from 2022.
President Tim Clark had previously expressed doubts that the aircraft would be able to meet maximum take-off weights, and therefore be unsuitable for the airline's payload-range requirements.
"I think things have moved on," he says, indicating that the agreement is not conditional on technological performance enhancements to the engines. "I don't like thrust bumps anyway."
He had referred three years ago to an engine specification of 70-72,000lb, although General Electric's GEnx-1B76 for the 787-10 as well as Rolls-Royce's new Trent 1000-TEN are rated at over 76,000lb.
No engine selection has yet been disclosed.
The early margins released when the 787-9 emerged subsequently transformed into "stellar economics", Clark points out, and he is confident the airline will not face operational limitations. He signals that the 787-10 would be used on 7-8.5h sectors where the carrier is looking to raise frequency.
Clark views the 787-10 as a successor to the carrier's Rolls-Royce-powered 777-300s which, he says, had excellent seat-mile costs. "It was still a hugely profitable aircraft because [Boeing] got it right in the performance box," he says.
"We don't need maximum take-off weight to do the missions of the 777-8 and -9," he adds, referring to the future 777X deliveries. "We'll be able to operate at derates."
Emirates' commitment to the 787-10s – which includes flexibility on delivery dates, 787 variants and the possibility of additional aircraft – has effectively closed the window on the Airbus A350-900, which had been in contention despite Emirates' high-profile cancellation of 70 A350s three years ago.
"Never say never," he says, in reference to the A350, but the expression strongly suggests the carrier does not foresee an opening for the twinjet.
Clark suggests Airbus missed an opportunity to improve the A350-900's chances of swaying the decision. He says he looked at the aircraft when Airbus was showing a 10-abreast economy layout, and observed several modifications to the interior – changes to the galley and movement of bulkheads – which opened additional space.
"It was quite a shock to me," he says, claiming that he "didn't know about it" – even though the -900 was competing for the Emirates fleet deal – and had asked at the time: "Why didn't you tell me?"
By this point, says Clark, it was a "bit late" to change Emirates' analysis. But he says the -900 is a "more marketable aircraft" as a result, adding: "It's a pity they didn't get it out sooner."