Emirates Mounts Pressure On Ailing Airbus A350-1000

  • Emirates Displeased With Current A350XWB Family Design
  • Further 777-300ER Orders In The Pipeline
  • 777X Launch Customer “Identified”

Hot on the heels of the 2011 Dubai Air Show, Emirates is squaring off against Airbus’ planned changes to the A350-1000 that make the airplane significantly more unique than a family sibling to the A350-900s that it has on order.To that end, Emirates is now weighing up a move away from the A350-1000. The airline has outlined that it plans to cancel all 20 orders for the A350-1000 and not convert any to the A350-900 in the wake of the delays to the latter – forcing Emirates to seek more Boeing 777-300ERs in the interim, even though it ordered fifty more at the 2011 Dubai Air Show with options on twenty more.

And with Boeing stepping up the pace of development activities on the 777X family, Emirates is ready to jettison the A350-1000 altogether, leaving the A350-900 as the only Airbus twin-engine mainstay of its fleet, replacing the ageing A330-200s that are primed for retirement.

Prior to the March 2012 celebration of the 1,000th 777, which was delivered to the biggest Arab carrier, Emirates had been meticulously poring over Boeing’s plans for the long range 777-8X and higher capacity 777-9X. Depending on the final selection of the wing design for the 777X pairing, and by extension the thrust parameters needed for airplanes from the planned GE9X engines, Emirates faith in Airbus’ ability to make good on 2017 deliveries for the A350-1000 is “nil”.

Concerns about service-entry performance also worry Emirates as it looks to phase out its aging A330-200s, A340s and early build 777-200s, 777-200ERs and 777-300s. Every delay to the baseline A350-900 pushes the A350-1000 farther back 1.5 times. It is not a day-for-day slippage and right now, Airbus is unable to guarantee performance for the A350-1000 given the engine revisions by Rolls Royce for the Trent XWB and because of significant and continued design alterations to the airplane.

“It’s a stretch too far,” says one source at Emirates.

As Boeing gears up for authority to offer the 777X in the fourth quarter this year, Emirates is keen to draw a line in the sand with the A350-1000 and cancel orders for the type rather than convert them to the A350-900. Overall, the airline holds firm orders for some 70 Airbus A350XWBs (all models) and options for a further 50.

The withdrawal of and continued build quality issues of the A380 has annoyed Emirates in a big way. Aside from the financial costs it is incurring for each and every AOG (aircraft on ground) A380 that has to undergo repair work for the wing bracket replacements, the frenetic growth of the airline means that it is poised to capture the 777X before it gains wider traction and slots disappear and thus is effectively pushing the case to become launch customer.

Whether Boeing uses this momentum on its money-spinning 777 family to increase production beyond 8.3 a month from next year to whittle down the backlog to make way for the 777X models remains to be seen. With the 787 entering service and deliveries starting to creep up and with no long range Airbus twin available until at least 2016 (A350-900 to be delayed further), Boeing is keen to keep premium pricing in place on the 777 and we may not see a production hike beyond 9 airplanes a month as the company looks to rebuild and offset margins that will be eroded by early 787 deliveries.

Image courtesy of Boeing

3 Replies to “Emirates Mounts Pressure On Ailing Airbus A350-1000”

  1. Emirates’ order for 50 additional 777-300ERs plus 20 options speaks volumes about Emirates’ view of the dismal A350-1000 variant. If anything, the fact that Emirates selected an additional 20 options for the 777-300ER points clearly to the fact that they’re preparing the ground to cancel their A350-1000 order altogether. The warning shot has been fired across Airbus’ bows…the next shot will be straight into the hull!

    I have no doubt that the promised economics and performance capabilities of Boeing’s new 777X Family will lead Emirates to become the launch-customer. And, I wouldn’t be surprised either if the launch order is for 100 777s either.