Emirates Puts Its Stamp on 777X

 - October 7, 2013, 3:20 PM
An Emirates Boeing 777-300ER takes off on its first revenue flight from Milan to New York on October 1. (Photo: Emirates)

Emirates Airline has worked for more than two years to assist Boeing in the design of the 777X, the new airplane expected to begin replacing the phenomenally successful 777-300ER at the end of the decade, according to Emirates president Tim Clark.

“Yes, we’ve had an input there,” acknowledged Clark, speaking with AIN in Dubai last month. “We’ve been working with them now for a couple of years on the whole thing. Don’t forget, this is a Boeing airplane and they listen to their customers [and not only the] designers.”

AIN reported in May that Boeing confirmed it had started discussions at that time with airline and leasing customers about aspects of the development of the new widebody, including technical, pricing and schedule details, and that the market response would govern a decision on whether to formally launch the program.

Commenting on the routes the 777X would serve and when it would enter operation, Clark spoke enthusiastically about the prospects. “It will do everything we’re doing today and more,” he said. “We will [then] have 175 [777-300]ERs: all those will be retired, and be replaced, maybe by the 8X and the 9X. They’ll also be on operating leases as well.”

On Airbus’s need for a technological response, Clark effectively issued something of an endorsement for the A350-1000, about which in the past he has expressed some reservations for schedule slippages and weight excesses. “Airbus is already responding,” he said. “The A350 is in development anyway and we’ve already signed contracts for that. There’s a lot going on at the moment.”

While Airbus now expects the A350-1000 to enter service in 2017, Boeing continues to cite an end-of-decade target for the 777X.

Clark declined to comment on potential 777X order announcements during the November 17 to 21 Dubai Air Show.

Meanwhile, Emirates’ explosive growth has caught the attention of U.S. airlines and groups such as the Air Line Pilots Association, which issued a statement last week calling Emirates’ new route between Milan and New York “a clear first step in long-term strategy by a heavily supported state-owed foreign airline to undercut U.S. airlines and hurt U.S. jobs.”

ALPA called on the U.S. government “to make aviation policy decisions that advance the U.S. airline industry” in an effort to offset what it characterizes as a competitive imbalance. The union points to onerous taxation of U.S. carriers, financing support through the U.S. ExIm Bank for already highly subsidized airlines such as Emirates and what it considers the indiscriminate award of fifth-freedom traffic rights as examples of the U.S. government’s ill-considered aviation policy.

“Many foreign countries view their airlines’ success as critical to diversifying their national economy in the face of finite natural resources,” said ALPA president Lee Moak. “We are asking the U.S. government to show similar tenacity in advancing the U.S. airline industry, which ultimately has a positive effect on the country’s economy as a whole.”