Middle-Eastern airline Emirates is known for having the world’s largest Airbus A380 fleet. Alongside this, it operates two variants of the Boeing 777, including the world’s largest 777-300ER fleet. Moving forward, this trend looks set to continue with the next-generation Boeing 777X, of which the UAE’s flag carrier has by far the largest number on order. However, Emirates President Tim Clark has revealed that it remains in the dark as far as the delivery of these aircraft is concerned.
Emirates’ 777X order
In 2013, Emirates announced that it had placed the largest aircraft order (by cost) in commercial aviation history. This consisted of 150 Boeing 777X aircraft, worth a total of $76 billion ($83 billion in 2020). This order was made up of 35 777-8 and 115 777-9 aircraft. It has since slightly reduced the order in favour of 30 Boeing 787-9 ‘Dreamliner’ aircraft.
Nonetheless, it still represents a significant commitment to the world’s largest and most-efficient twinjet airliner. Its current order tally of 115 777X aircraft is almost twice as many as second-placed Qatar Airways, which has 60 of the type on order. However, it is taking longer than expected for the luxurious Dubai-based carrier to get these aircraft into service.
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has slowed development of the Boeing 777X program. Earlier this year, Simple Flying reported that Emirates was not expecting to begin taking deliveries of the type until 2022. Indeed, this was not the first time that the airline’s 777X launch had been delayed, as its President Sir Tim Clark detailed in a recent interview with Bloomberg.
When asked about a prospective delivery date for Emirates’ 115 Boeing 777X aircraft, Clark admitted that he had “no idea.” He stated that it was a question of when Boeing will deliver them, rather than when Emirates will take delivery. The launch had initially been planned for June this year. It has since been pushed back to 2021, and again to 2022.
Uncertainty going forward
However, 2022 may also prove an unlikely target. Clark is optimistic about Emirates’ future operations, stating that he does eventually expect to see its fleet and network operating to the same extent as before the pandemic. However, keen as the airline may be to move forward with the growth and modernization of its fleet, some factors are beyond its control.
According to Clark, the (delayed) certification process for the 777X’s airframe and engines will ultimately define when it can be delivered. However, he does not intend to make any further changes to Emirates’ substantial 777X order. In the interview, he described his keenness for the airline to fulfil its contract with Boeing. He concluded with the statement that Emirates would “take our chances when, and if, [the 777X] gets to us in the next couple of years, or three.”
Ultimately, COVID-19 has made for a lot of uncertainty across the airline industry as a whole. While it may be frustrating, it is also understandable that, in the current climate, aircraft orders cannot always be delivered as planned. Nonetheless, Emirates’ record-breaking 777X order represents an exciting commitment to the future of long-haul air travel. When they can finally be delivered, these new aircraft will hopefully prove to be worth the wait.
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