Dubai-based Emirates is evaluating the A350-900 XWB and proposed 787-10 for its A330 renewal, with a view to deliveries from 2013-14.
Speaking during the World Air Transport Forum in Cannes, Clark said: “Our plan has always been to try and get something knocked out for the Dubai Air Show, but that will only be if we have what we want from the manufacturers, Boeing and Airbus. We are not there yet.
“The air show is not far away, but if the things aren’t right then we won’t sign. The A350-900 XWB is now fitting more easily into the kind of seating requirement that we’ve got, but it is now a toss-up between the 787-10, which will be flying in 2013-14, and the A350-900, which is currently 2013-14.”
Clark says he is seeking weight commitments for the A350 and greater thrust for the 787. He adds that a split order is unlikely.
He says: “My own view is that [the 787-10] needs more thrust. It is not a view shared by Boeing, but my instinct in this business for 25 years now tells me that aircraft needs more thrust and it will have more thrust. It will need, I would say, 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. 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,” he says.
Together with other carriers, Emirates called for the original A350 to be redesigned, with a larger cabin, new wing and improved propulsion. Clark says Airbus listened to the community and Emirates is now seeing promise from the amended type.
“[The A350 XWB] is now an aircraft that we are prepared to take seriously and study seriously. Up until [the re-design] we weren’t prepared to do that,” he says. “They listened and, from what we can see of the A350 now, it is a potentially good aircraft and it matches the 787 offering from Boeing.”
Clark is unfazed by the lack of engine choice on the A350 XWB. He says: “It is an issue but it doesn’t make it impossible. Obviously all airlines would rather have a choice, but the commercial and product guarantees that Airbus would offer us if we were to sign a contract would speak about the issue of single-source propulsion. My view is that the others will be on it sooner rather than later.”
But after suffering weight increases on both the A340 and A380, coupled with the redesign of the A350, Clark is seeking tight guarantees from Airbus. He says: “We have to deal with those issues that speak specifically to weight growth and performance issues as a result of that weight growth.
“Airbus has been fairly flexible. They know our history with them and they know the history of their aircraft. But we are not there yet in cementing some kind of understanding in the contract, as to how this will be dealt with.”