Emirates will not choose between the Airbus A350-900 or the Boeing 787-10 until next year, chief executive Tim Clark has confirmed – quashing speculation that the Dubai air show might bring a high-profile order for one of the midsize widebodies from the local flag carrier.
Clark has also ruled out a commitment at the show for more Airbus A380s – although he is still urging Toulouse to launch a revamped "A380neo" variant of the superjumbo.
Emirates has "all the data we need to make an assessment" of the baseline A350 and the stretched Dreamliner, although a decision is "not imminent", Clark told Flightglobal today.
"It will be in 2016 – but when, I don't know – and it will be one or the other," he adds.
Emirates cancelled its original order for 70 A350-900/1000s last year, but Clark says he is happy with revised performance numbers from Airbus, now that the -900 has entered service. "We are now getting meaningful figures," he says. "The originals were just estimates."
Clark had also expressed concerns over the 787-10's hot-weather performance in the Gulf summer. He says "there are still issues with the -10", but he maintains that Emirates has been "testing it on paper" and is satisfied it could fulfil a role.
"We wouldn't put it on New York or Sydney, but as a workhorse up to 8.5h without a kink in the payload, it looks like a good aeroplane," he says.
Clark says he does not think Airbus will launch an A380neo at the air show and suggests Emirates would not be able to incorporate any more of the ultra-large aircraft at its close-to-capacity Dubai International (DXB) base for now anyway.
However, he remains keen on a new version of the superjumbo. "If [Airbus] do develop it, it would be of interest to everybody, and I'd like to see them sell more A380s," he says. He adds that an A380neo would not have to be a bigger aircraft, but that a new engine and aerodynamic tweaks could make the existing A380 up to 13% more economical.
Despite congestion at DXB, Clark says the new Dubai World Central, or Al Maktoum International, will not be ready for Emirates to relocate its passenger operations until the second half of the 2020s.
The new airport, in the Jebel Ali district south of Dubai, is earmarked to become the world's biggest hub but currently consists of one runway and a modest terminal building, and is used mainly as a cargo airport and by a handful of carriers.
"We are having to manage a very compressed airport here [DXB] and it's focusing a lot of our attention these days," says Clark. Although efficiencies are being introduced in terms of "brake to vacate" processes on runways, dual arrival procedures and air traffic control, he says Emirates is having to operate "very compressed banks" of flights. "Ultimately, there are only a certain number of parking spaces and it's becoming more difficult," he says.