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Nov 13, 2011

Emirates reminds Airbus: Don't mess with us

Today's announcement of the largest Boeing order by catalog value for 50 of its 777-300ERs plus options for 20 by Emirates worth $US 18 billion brings to mind something that airline's p


Today’s announcement of the largest Boeing order by catalog value for 50 of its 777-300ERs plus options for 20 by Emirates worth $US 18 billion brings to mind something that airline’s president, Tim Clark, was reported as saying in March last year in relation to the importance of the Airbus A350 in replacing aging A330s and older model 777s.

If Airbus significantly delays the A350, Emirates would have to keep these aircraft longer which would then exceed its usual aircraft aged of around 10 years.

Mr Clarke said that unlike the A380 aircraft – which was two years late – Emirates could find alternatives to the A350 if there was a delay.

“All I have to do is pick up the phone and order more Boeing 777s,” Clark threatened.

Maybe he has done just that.  The Dubai Air Show opened today, and there would have be some worried people in Airbus, given the announcement of delays to the A350 only a few days ago, putting back its entry into service from late 2013 to mid 2014.

In 2007 Emirates ordered 50 Airbus A350-900s, the initial version, plus 20 of the -1000 version, which is both larger and longer in range.

Since then Emirates has more or less simultaneously warned Airbus not to be late, but also to change the design of the A350-1000 to give it more range.  It is the largest buyer and  operator of the Airbus A380 ( 90 ordered and 17 in service) and the Boeing 777, currently operating at least 86 of them in various versions, although the net effect of the new 777 order is unclear, as it is part of a program to replace old with new, as well as grow that part of its fleet.

Whether the Emirates A350 order is intact should become clear during the course of the four day Dubai Air Show.



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14 thoughts on “Emirates reminds Airbus: Don’t mess with us

  1. Peteyboy

    I wonder whether the missed lead-times of today’s new aircraft is a triumph of marketing over substance, or whether these new plastic-fantastics are just too technically different to deliver on time. The cost of tardiness to airlines is immense (look at the strategic pickle Qantas is in with the B787, and the problems with the A380). The huge advantage Airbus has over Boeing is that outsourcing has been with it from day 1, whereas Boeing came late to the party, got rid of all its experienced designers and suffered at the hands of a myriad of suppliers with no-one at Boeing knowing how to integrate systems and suppliers. It seems integration is the the most important skill for a manufacturer these days, and it’s in short supply.

  2. TomTom

    While I don’t take issue with the above comments, I think that “no-one at Boeing knowing how to integrate systems and suppliers” is not the entire story. Even in the 1980s, aircraft like B767 were significantly outsourced, with cockpit from Japan, wings from Canada, etc. It was said that a GE or PW-powered A300 contributed more to the US economy than a RR-powered B767. So the integration of systems and suppliers has been there for quite some time.

    I think that the main problem is that, in the earlier examples, Boeing gave the outsourced suppliers Boeing-designed parts and systems to fabricate, whereas currently Boeing has the suppliers also design, as well as construct, their portions of the aircraft, and Boeing has failed to provide sufficient oversight, coordination and quality assurance over the suppliers so that the parts are not coming together properly – as witness the B787s sitting on the ramp at Everett with thousands of open items which must be reworked or replaced before they can be delivered.

  3. TomTom

    But, back to the main thrust of the story, I do not believe that a $26 billion, 50 aircraft order has materialized from a phone call in recent days since the A350 delay announcement. Even as a follow-on order, these things take quite some time, effort, specification and negotiation. I appears that Emirates’ fleet of the future will consist of A380, B777 and A350, with additional variants of B777 and A350 essentially replacing A330 and early B777 models.

    No doubt, the threat exists that A350 could disappear from the plan, but I do not agree with the over-dramatization of the nature and timing of this order.

  4. Air NZ fires barb at Boeing over late 787 as first one lands | Plane Talking

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  5. gapot

    The battle between EADS and Boeing to sell planes at any cost as a trade off for free access to Europe and the US markets is doing nothing for the level playing field in world avation. It has been stated that these two plane makers would not exist if the military orders were not factored into their bottom lines. Both companies have complained to their governments that the others passenger planes have government money from the military orders injected into them. How Australia fits into this deal is to make bits of Boeing planes in Victoria.
    It will be interesting to see if UAE airlines can service their debt or will they be bailed out by their oil rich neighbours again.

  6. Ben Sandilands

    I think the even more interesting question might be how much debt in one part of the UAE might be turned into equity in another part of the UAE.

    So far Emirates financial performance has been stellar. But like every airline exposed to the state of world trade and the travel it generates in places which are natural global hubs, the stellar nova risk is never far away. Not that we will give a damn, the fate of airlines will be way down the list of public preoccupations, here and abroad.

  7. gapot

    The most interesting project in the UAE is the new 6 lane airport in Dubai and how Dubai World will get the money to finish even the first runway. This is the company which had to be bailed out by the Abu Dhabi government last year. Why they dont just pool their efforts and build one of every thing and make it work?

  8. icarus

    Boeing might well know how to integrate its system and suppliers, but what it hasn’t yet learnt is that many of its suppliers use the metric system. To expect metric trained people to work with Boeing’s measurement anachronism and always get it right borders on hubris. Well do I remember when they rolled the first 787 out to show it very prematurely to the world. It had apparently a gap between 2 sections, depending on whom you believe, of a few mm to almost 50 mm. This problem was extensively discussed on the net, but Boeing never stated the size and whether and what really happened.
    With metric China (C919) soon joining metric Airbus, maybe there is enough work for Chinese and European suppliers to produce metric components that have as yet sourced in the only advanced country that hasn’t changed to the metric system?

    Initially, my source says, the gap was 1.750 inches.

  9. TT

    icarus: I don’t know how you can draw conclusions on Boeing doesn’t know how to deal with metric systems. None of your articles links you have included indicatedthe issue is related to metric vs imperial measurements.

    Although I have not worked or associated with Boeing in any way, Boeing (and in fact just about all American Defence contractors) had been doing new design in metric systems (and US military standards are specified in metrics as well as imperial systems nowadays), so I doubted very much that did B787 in imeprial units (they may have dual measurements, but metric units would be the primary units).

    The issue with B787 I would say is due to tolerance- with carbon composites the tolerenaces is a lot stricter than metals as composites is less ductile. The same Seattle Times article (back in 2007) pointed out it is the first B787 – so it is hardly a surprise (I would be more worry if the same issue still happens onthe 10th plane)

    Tolerance issue can happen to any manufacturer, whether they use metric or imperial measurements. To simply put the Americans is suffering from such problem (back in 2007) but the Chinese and European won’t is a bit naive…

  10. TomTom

    Just a clarification on the @gapot comment: Dubai World Central is the name of the new airport but it is not a project of the sovereign wealth fund Dubai World.

    On the other hand, they all work for the same bloke….

  11. Boeing’s new jets illustrate different paths with largest customers Emirates and Southwest (Update1) « Wales Air Forum

    […] I have to do is pick up the phone and order more Boeing 777s,” he warned in 2010 Airbus regarding delays to the A350. Though Emirates eagerness to serve as launch customer for the -9X stands in contrast to […]

  12. TomTom

    Just because Tim Clark said that once does not mean that is how the present deal came to be. If looked at in light of upcoming retirements of early B777s at Emirates plus growth requirements, the current 50-aircraft order should be neither a surprise nor a big scandal over purported significance other than planned retirements and growth, using more capable B777s than the earlier models currently in Emirates’ service.

  13. thebozeian


    What on earth are you talking about? BOTH Airbus and Boeing use Both metric and imperial, in fact they transpose between the two all the time. If they didn’t then I would need two complete sets of spanners, sockets and a host of other tools, and I dont. Airbus uses imperial all over it’s aircraft and in fact for equipment it is the de-facto standard. I have occasionally found metric fasteners on both manufacturers aircraft but this is usually due to a third party vendor supplying equipment. The only difference you will see between the two big manufacturers is in the use of metric by Airbus for datum measurements, ie: body, wing, nacelle stations etc, while Boeing stick with imperial. Apart from that it is all basically manufactured in imperial, whilst the design work can be carried out in either measurement system with equivalents given. With modern virtual design tools it makes no difference. To change in practice would be enormously costly for absolutely no benefit. In fact you risk errors with new “metricated” equivalent parts being possibly substituted for older original items where there may be tiny differences of a few thou that could cause an operational issue.

    As for Boeing 787 supposedly being mistakenly manufactured with a gap which you inferred was due to metric/imperial confusion, ahem! I seem to remember Airbus having a rather unfortunate gap appear when they tried the first mating of the empennage to rear fuse on ship#1.

    Change over to metric system? What the hell for? There is a reason the Americans and others have stuck with what they have and I pointed out a number of those in the first paragraph. Seems we have ALL done pretty well out of feet and inches so far. From an engineering point of view there is really no advantage. The only advantage of metric is teaching children with increasingly short attention spans that they only need to count to ten. And satisfying the French perversion for wanting to reinvent the wheel. Lets, K.I.S.S.

  14. thebozeian

    Apologies, I meant Airbus A-380 ship#1, in the above post.


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