As if on cue, Emirates Airline added a dose of intrigue to what was shaping up to be a very quiet Dubai Airshow Monday afternoon as Emirates chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al Maktoum bestowed Airbus with an order for 50 A350-900s worth $16 billion at list prices. The contract with Airbus calls for deliveries to start in 2023 and continue into 2028.
Although Sheikh Ahmed said the deal replaces the memorandum of understanding signed in February covering 30 A350s and 40 A330neos, he declined to elaborate on the disposition of the A330neo commitment. He did concede, however, that Emirates might not have completely fulfilled its needs in the A350’s size category and confirmed he continues to discuss with Boeing a possible firm order for 787 Dreamliners. Emirates signed an MOU covering 40 Boeing 787-10s during the 2017 Dubai Air Show.
“We are confident in the performance of the A350XWB and we believe this aircraft will be a good fit for our operation at Emirates,” said Sheikh Ahmed, who added that the airline plans to adopt new economy cabin configurations with the widebody. “Together with our A380s and 777s, the A350s will give us more operational flexibility in terms of capacity, range, and deployment. We will be able to take the aircraft for new markets not only in the region but also on long-haul missions up to 15 hours of flying time from Dubai. The $16 billion deal also reflects our confidence in the future of the UAE and its aviation sector, and it’s a strong confirmation of Dubai’s strategy to be a global hub.”
Sheikh Ahmed also addressed a question on the disposition of the Boeing 777Xs the airline has on order, confirming that he and executives from Boeing will continue to discuss possibilities at the show. Emirates has placed an order for 150 of the widebodies, but the carrier's CEO Tim Clark has expressed displeasure over the delay in the airplane’s planned entry into service availability. Emirates had planned to take delivery of the first airplane next June. Engine-related snags have delayed expected first delivery until early 2021.