With a characteristically nimble response to market demand, Emirates Airline hastily re-scheduled an announcement here yesterday of more than $30 billion worth of aircraft orders to accommodate the presence of Dubai ruler HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum. As dozens of journalists jostled to gain access through appropriate levels of security, Emirates chairman and chief executive HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al-Maktoum revealed and signed orders for 93 aircraft and took options on 50 more.
Under the terms of the deal, the airline will take 50 Airbus A350-900 twin-aisle twinjets, 20 A350-1000s, 11 A380 superjumbos and 12 Boeing 777-300ERs. Emirates also took options on a further 50 A350-900s. The contract calls for A350 deliveries to begin in 2014.
The A380 orders will bring Emirates’ all-widebody fleet of the world’s largest airliner to 58, while the overall fleet (including options) will grow to some 246 from the current 111 airplanes in service. The 777 orders will bring Emirates’ fleet to 57, setting it to become “the world’s largest 777 operator in the next few years.” With previously placed orders, the Emirates backlog is worth some $60 billion, said Sheikh Ahmed.
He also signed agreements with Rolls-Royce for Trent XWB engines to power the A350s, with the General Electric/Pratt & Whitney Engine Alliance for the A380’s GP7200 powerplants and with GE for GE90 engines for the 777s.
Including engines and options, the value of the business could reach $34.9 billion at catalog prices. At $31.7 billion, the Airbus order ranks as the largest ever placed for civil aircraft. The Boeing deal is valued at $3.2 billion.
Commenting on the meteoric growth of his airline, Sheikh Ahmed alluded to a previous Emirates business plan that called for operating 100 aircraft by 2010. “Growth and demand has exceeded the most optimistic projections” he said. “Dubai is investing billions to secure its future as a leading center for business, tourism and air transport.”
The selection of the A350 over Boeing’s new 787 boiled down to simple network suitability, he said. “We looked at [the specifications for] both, including capacity. We are happy with the type of [Airbus] aircraft we are flying today…I am not saying we would never fly anything else.”
Emirates president Tim Clark added that Boeing wasn’t prepared to commit itself to producing the 787-10 for the airline. Boeing Commercial Airplanes chief executive Scott Carson conceded that Boeing “had not offered the aircraft Emirates wanted,” but he said Boeing would continue to offer the smaller -8 to the carrier. Pressed about the decision, Flanagan said the A350’s specification had changed during negotiation: “We will get the aircraft as designed, but we have contributed to that design.”
One might recognize a measure of the nature of the negotiations in the fact that the deal didn’t reach completion until last Friday and that Emirates formally initialed on Saturday, Airbus chief operating officer (customers) John Leahy told AIN.