Emirates aims to launch a competition between the Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 during 2015 once it has obtained detailed performance and in-service data for the two twinjets.

The airline will re-evaluate the A350-900 and -1000 alongside the 787-9 and -10 following its decision in June to terminate its original contract placed in 2007 for 70 of the Rolls-Royce Trent XWB-powered twinjet.

Emirates Airline president Tim Clark says the decision to cancel the original A350 order was driven by Airbus’s move three years ago to revamp the A350-1000 around a more powerful engine. “It’s a different aeroplane [to the one ordered],” says Clark.

“We needed a fresh contract. This was a beast that needed to have its contractual terms aligned with what it was and will be,” Clark explained to Flightglobal during World Routes in Chicago. “They didn’t match, and Airbus knew they didn’t match as it would have been kicking up merry hell about us walking away from the contract.”

Clark says he told Airbus that he would be “happy to sit down again” to revise the contract. However the expansion of the 787 family to include a second stretched variant, the -10, means that Boeing’s Dreamliner has entered the equation.

“The 787-10 didn’t exist when we signed for the A350. Now it does,” says Clark. “So we will launch a campaign that will look at both the 787-9/10 and the A350-900/1000. And we’ll see who comes up with the best deal, not just at the front-end price but also the operating economics. And then we’ll decide how many and when.”

Clark says that the shorter-range 787-10 has a lower empty weight than the A350-900, which could be an advantage in the evaluation: “The A350-900 is full of fuel tanks because it can fly from the Gulf to New York nonstop, but the 787-10 isn’t designed to do that. It’s designed to take the same number of passengers over much shorter missions, which for us is fine,” he says. “And it’s possibly cheaper because it’s not so heavy.”

But Clark is not prepared to start evaluating either type until he has seen the A350-900 and 787-9 “operated in anger”. He says he wants “real hard operating numbers in terms of fuel burn etc” and to ensure that the in-service technical performance is satisfactory.

“That will come during the course of the next six months or so we’ll probably re-open talks some time next year,” he says.

While Airbus benefited from a major Emirates A380 deal last year, Rolls-Royce has so far been the big loser in the A350 cancellation to the tune of £2.6 billion ($4.4 billion) in lost business. But Clark says the UK engine maker could benefit in the new campaign: “They’re in for both – the 787 and A350. So they’ve got a very good chance of getting on to one or other of the aircraft we pick,” he says.

Source: Flight Daily News