Emirates orders 30 Boeing 787 Dreamliners worth $8.8bn

Airline to restart expansion by early 2020s, Emirates president says

FILE PHOTO: Visitors take pictures of a model of Boeing's 787 Dreamliner during Japan Aerospace 2016 air show in Tokyo, Japan, October 12, 2016.   REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File Photo
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Emirates, the world's biggest long-haul airline, ordered 30 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners valued at $8.8 billion (Dh32bn) and reduced a previous order for the delayed 777Xs to 126 of the larger jet.

The Dreamliner deliveries will begin in May 2023, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed, Emirates chairman and chief executive, said on Wednesday during the unveiling of the long-awaited order at the Dubai Airshow. Under the agreement with Boeing, Emirates has exercised its right to substitute some 777Xs with 787s.

“The 787s will complement our fleet mix by expanding our operational flexibility in terms of capacity, range and deployment to connect new city pairs and expand frequencies,” Sheikh Ahmed said.

The Boeing order restructuring comes after an Airbus order revision at the Dubai Airshow as the world’s biggest operator of wide-body planes reviews its fleet and route network.

Emirates had committed to 40 Dreamliners in 2017 for an order that had not been finalised. It entered talks with Boeing to complete the deal during this week as part of negotiations that also earlier involved an order for 150 of the delayed 777Xs.

Emirates said it will enter into discussions with Boeing regarding the status of 777X deliveries over the next few weeks. The airline had been heavily involved in the 777X programme since the outset, outlining its requirements of what it needed the plane to do.

With its route review completed, Emirates saw a fit for the 787 in its network.

“We want to introduce it to perhaps thinner routes where 787 comes into its own on both medium and long haul operations,” Tim Clark, president of Emirates said. “The sooner we get that the better, so we decided to exercise the right to get them in sooner.”

The 787 engine selection has yet to be made and the airline has 18 months to 2 years before it needs to make a decision, he said.

Following the fleet review and the closer partnership with sister carrier Flydubai, Emirates has opted for the smaller 787 and A350 widebodies to drive the next phase of its growth.

“By the early 2020s, Emirates will restart its expansion in no uncertain terms and we can do this with these aircraft, including [the] 777X programme when it comes in,” Mr Clark said.

“It’s a holistic approach for the growth of the Dubai hub with the two airlines, it makes sense and because it worked so well for us so far with flydubai, cross-flows [between both airlines], we realised we should be looking into things like the 787 and a350."

On Monday, Airbus signed a deal with Emirates for a firm order of 50 A350-900 wide-bodies valued at $16bn at list prices. A330 Neos are “still part of the mix but not contracted”, Mr Clark said.

Orders for the 787 and A350 illustrate the airline's shifting strategy towards smaller wide-bodies that will replace the A380 superjumbo, which Airbus is set to phase out due to lack of demand.

"With A380 production ceasing in 2021, Emirates was always on the prowl for a more flexible regional fleet," said Saj Ahmad, chief analyst at StrategicAero Research.

"In reducing the 777X orders, partially in lieu of the delays to flight testing, Emirates will be equipped with a much more flexible fleet that aligns itself to more disciplined capacity management on routes where demand often warrants a smaller airplane than the current 777-300ER or 777-200LR. This is where the 787-9 for Emirates will now fit the bill."

With the A350 order and the Boeing deal, the total value of commitments made by Emirates at the 2019 Dubai Airshow is $24.8bn.

The airline currently operates an all wide-body fleet of A380s and 777s.


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