It might be just over two months to the Dubai Air Show but the party poopers keep coming so far as new orders are concerned with Emirates President and CEO, Tim Clark, telling Aviation Daily (free registration required) that a long planned order for either the Boeing 787 or Airbus A350 is “off the table for now”.
This order has been up in lights for at least three years, and even talked up by the airline as recently as this June. The smaller Airbus or Boeing models concerned would have supported the heavy duty Emirates fleet of A380s and 777s.
But change is definitely coming to the Emirates business model, which on official guidance, is looking better now than it did when it experienced a reduced period of demand and profitability in its most recent full financial year to March 31.
It has started working closely with the FlyDubai regional single aisle Boeing 737 operation which has the same sovereign owners as itself, and Sir Tim has already given interviews looking favourably on the possibility that Emirates itself might invest in single aisle jets such as the Airbus A321 NEO LR, which would have sharpened pencils in Seattle no doubt.
FlyDubai is a 737-800 operation. He has also made it crystal clear to Airbus that a widely anticipated new order for an additional 20 A380s depends on certainty over the future commitment to and direction of the largest Airbus, of which it has 97 in service and a further 45 at last count awaiting delivery.
Emirates has made a huge success of the A380, and will unveil, it is understood, every aspect of a partly revealed refurbishment and new cabin product program for the big Airbus and the current 777 fleet at the Dubai Air Show which runs from November 12-16.
(This follows Singapore Airlines showing off its new look A380 products in full on November 2. The Emirates and SingaporeAir revamps are more ambitious it seems than the new Qantas A380 product changes recently announced and with a start date later in 2019.)
What Emirates does will obviously have consequences that go well beyond its operations. Given the unravelling of the different business model pursued by smaller and neighbouring Abu Dhabi based Etihad, speculation about a twin hub merger between the two UAE airlines seems to have gained additional momentum.
The ME3 might turn into the ME2. Or even the ME1, if the diplomatic campaign by the UAE and others against the small but very rich state of Qatar manages to totally undermine Qatar Airways. (According to statements made by that airline, it’s doing just fine.)
Emirates is the cornerstone investor in the Boeing 777-X family, due in service from late 2020, with a total order for 150 of the jet. It could probably take this entire order over the next decade for existing 777 replacements plus modest growth given that it has 129 77330ERs and three -300s in service, with nine of the Boeing family in storage.
The airline has in the recent past said it could take 100 or more additional A380s for both replacement and growth in the next decade, but put pressure on Airbus to upgrade what is the world’s largest passenger jet with new technology engines and airframe refinements similar to those being applied to the 777-X series.
However the latest messaging from Emirates makes it more than apparent that the powerful growth enjoyed by the ME3 is being replaced by more modest outlooks.
With Airbus and Boeing managements showing a reluctance to invest in technology sought by only one or two large carriers for their special needs, and a concurrent collapse in used jet values, reinvention of product, for better or worse, may take precedence over bold new designs.