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Widebody doubts stall Emirates' Airbus and Boeing negotiations

Uncertainty over the status of key widebody programmes is preventing Emirates from revamping its orders with Airbus and Boeing, says president Tim Clark.

The Middle Eastern carrier is launch customer for the 777X with orders for 150 aircraft and holds a memorandum of understanding with Boeing for up to 40 787-9s and -10s. The 787 commitment was announced by Emirates at the Dubai air show in 2017 and is expected to be incorporated into a revised contract for the 777X.

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777X

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Emirates also has a pending deal with Airbus for 40 A330neos and 30 A350s to be ordered as part of a restructuring of its existing A380 contract.

Clark says that the major delay to the 777-9’s first flight was confirmed at a time when Emirates was “fairly well advanced in our negotiations with Boeing on this particular order”.

He says that the 777-9 was originally due to fly in October 2018 and the first aircraft was due to be delivered to Emirates in June 2020, with up to nine deliveries due in close succession. “All those have now been set back,” he adds.

“Let’s assume that Boeing has a 13-16 month flight certification programme and we will insist, given what is going on over there, that the certification programme is as exhaustive and comprehensive as it needs to be given that the 777X is a new airframe, a new wing and new propulsion. That means we cannot be sure as to when will are going to get those aeroplanes.

“The engine will get sorted. It’s a question of when,” he adds.

Clark says that for Emirates to enter into discussions around the contract adjustments or introducing new aircraft to the package “at this stage makes little sense”.

With regard to the 787 commitment, Clark says that the situation with one of the two engine options, the Rolls-Royce Trent 1000, excludes any rush to negotiate that deal: “There is no stability in the Rolls-Royce programme at the moment as we see it, and until such time as we have definitive guarantees that the engines will be fit for purpose from day one, we’re not prepared to make those commitments.”

Clark emphasises that Emirates is “very keen” to take its 777-9s but will only contract for the aircraft “when we are satisfied that the propulsion and airframers are confident in their product”.

Emirates is also a launch customer for the ultra-long-range 777-8 variant, which Boeing recently shelved to focus on recovering the -9 schedule. But Clark says he’s not been informed by Boeing about the status: “From what I’ve read in the aviation press that aircraft has been pushed out until I don’t know when.”

Meanwhile Clark says that the firming up of its deal for A330neos and A350s, both of which are exclusively powered by Rolls-Royce, has been delayed due to concerns about the engines’ ability to meet its specific performance requirements.

“We were ready and willing to complete that contract months ago. But we have some concerns that [Rolls-Royce] is not in a position to give us engines under our rules of the game.”

As negotiations continue with Rolls, Emirates is likely to be targeting a possible confirmation of the Airbus deal at November’s Dubai air show.

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