Earlier today, November 18, 2019, at the Dubai Airshow, Emirates signed an agreement for 50 Airbus A350 aircraft worth 16 billion dollars.
The new firm order replaces the airline’s previously made tentative commitment.
Emirates Firms Up an Order for 50 A350s
In 2016, Emirates retired its last Airbus A330s and A340s, leaving only the larger Boeing 777s and Airbus A380s in its fleet. With Airbus’ decision to axe the A380 program, Emirates had to give up its outstanding order of dozens of the type. After negotiations with Airbus, in February 2019, the airline agreed to:
- Receive 14 more A380s between 2019 and 2021
- Purchase 40 A330-900s ad 30 A350-900s
At the time, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates Airline and Group, reiterated his commitment to the airline’s fleet strategy:
Emirates’ fleet strategy to operate a young, modern, and efficient all-wide body fleet remains unchanged.
The new agreement, which replaces the agreement from February 2019, will see Emirates take delivery of 50 A350-900s.
While a significant purchase, it represents a notable decrease from the initially discussed order. Instead of 70 aircraft valued at more than 21 billion dollars, Emirates committed to 50 aircraft valued at 16 billion dollars.
Emirates expects the delivery of its first A350 in May 2023 with the rest following gradually until 2028. For reference, the earlier agreement saw Emirates getting its first A330neo in 2021 and its first A350 in 2024.
By introducing the A350-900 into its fleet, Emirates will be able to expand its service to destinations that do not need the capacity of the larger 777s and A380s. According to Sheikh Ahmed:
Complementing our A380s and 777s, the A350s will give us added operational flexibility in terms of capacity, range and deployment. In effect, we are strengthening our business model to provide efficient and comfortable air transport services to, and through, our Dubai hub.
Separately from the A350s, Emirates also has 35 Boeing 777-8s and 115 777-9s on order.
Originally, the 777-9s were supposed to be delivered starting in 2020 and the smaller 777-8s starting in 2022. However, with the 777X program encountering development delays, when Emirates will receive its first airframe remains to be seen.
It also remains to be seen whether the firmed up Airbus A350 order will have any effect on the airline’s decision regarding a potential Boeing 787 order.
Emirates committing to buy 50 A350s is certainly good news for Airbus. However, there’s no doubt it’s also a slight disappointment for the manufacturer considering that the overall deal size has decreased compared to the agreement from earlier this year.
As for Emirates, getting the A350 should allow it to expand its route network to include destinations with demand not high enough to justify deploying the larger 777s or A380s on.
Especially so considering that unlike its competitors Qatar Airways and Etihad, it doesn’t have any narrow-body aircraft in its fleet.