Emirates is unsure whether it will finalise a deal for Airbus A350-900s or Boeing 787-10s before the end of the year, and is waiting to hear whether Seattle will respond to concerns around hot-weather performance for the stretched Dreamliner.
The Dubai carrier launched a study into the A350-900 again alongside the 787-10 last year after cancelling its original order for 70 A350-900/1000s. While impressed with the operating economics of the 787-10, Emirates Airline president Sir Tim Clark is concerned that Dubai’s harsh operating environment will prevent the aircraft being able to carry sufficient payload on critical missions.
“The engines are ‘spec’ed’ at 70-72 [thousand pounds thrust], but the conditions we’re getting [operating from Dubai means] it can’t take the payload,” says Clark.
“I don’t want an aircraft compromised on some of the medium-haul routes – ie 3,500nm – or that the engine is working so hard that its reliability gives me despatch problems. They’re talking about thrust bumps and I don’t do thrust bumps.”
Clark says that the 787-10 is “a brilliant aeroplane” within its performance envelope, but he is not hopeful that Boeing will be able to tackle his concerns. “I think there’s a reticence there from Boeing,” he says. “Once you start going for a higher thrust you need more changes, fan changes – the whole thing changes.”
Describing both the A350-900 and 787-10 as “good aeroplanes”, he says the Airbus twinjet would likely have the required performance “but is it as fuel efficient as the -10? Probably not. But the A350 is a heavier aeroplane, it’s got more thrust, more tankage, and it’s designed to fly further [than Emirates needs].”
Senior Airbus salesman Christopher Buckley, who is executive vice-president for Europe, Africa, Asia and Pacific, is bullish on the A350’s prospects in the campaign. “We think with the product we have to offer Emirates, we’d be very disappointed if we can’t convince them,” he tells Flightglobal.
Clark says he would like to be in a position to finalise the order this year but timing could be affected by decisions around local airport developments. “I’m hoping [to finalise the order] this year but I’m waiting to see what happens at DWC [Dubai World Central airport], at the hub and everywhere else,” he says.
The potential size of the order is “very much in the air because a lot of it is aeropolitically driven – for example the India situation where we need to keep frequency up. All that’s being churned at the moment,” says Clark.