Emirates announced yesterday a firm order for 50 A350-900 XWB aircraft worth $16 billion (AED 58.7 billion) at list prices at the Dubai Airshow 2019. Powered by Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines, delivery of the first Emirates A350 XWB is expected in May 2023, and will continue until 2028.
The deal is valued according to list prices, but price negotiations – as is standard in the industry – will likely produce a more economic pricing for the Middle East’s largest airline. Known for the grandiose and for its its epic-scale A380s by which it has come to be defined, Emirates has undergone a slight shift in fleet strategy.
“Complementing our A380s and 777s, the A350s will give us added operational flexibility in terms of capacity, range and deployment,” Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Emirates Chairman and Chief Executive, said. “In effect, we are strengthening our business model to provide efficient and comfortable air transport services to, and through, our Dubai hub.”
Indeed, by adding a new model to its fleet, Emirates has realized it can’t rely on its poster boy the A380 to carry its business forever, given constant technical progress in plane design and engineering.
“In over-ordering the A350 family, having cancelled a bigger deal a few years earlier, Emirates strategy to move away from reliance on the A380 has firmly begun.,” Saj Ahmad, Chief Analyst at StrategicAero Research, told AMEinfo. “With A380 production ceasing in 2021, Emirates was always on the prowl for a more flexible regional fleet and it’s here where less busy routes that the A350 will operate.”
He continued: “That no A330neo’s were ordered leaves the door open to firming up the 787-10 and 787-9 commitments announced two years ago. The 787 family definitely has a place alongside the Airbus jets, as well as 777X.”
Airbus also commented on this end of an era, with Chief Executive Officer Tom Enders saying: “The A380 is not only an outstanding engineering and industrial achievement. Passengers all over the world love to fly on this great aircraft. Hence [this week’s] announcement is painful for us and the A380 communities worldwide. But, keep in mind that A380s will still roam the skies for many years to come and Airbus will of course continue to fully support the A380 operators,” Tom Enders added.
“The A380 is Emirates’ flagship and has contributed to the airline’s success for more than ten years. As much as we regret the airline’s position, selecting the A330neo and A350 for its future growth is a great endorsement of our very competitive widebody aircraft family,” said Guillaume Faury, President of Airbus Commercial Aircraft and future Airbus CEO.
While it was a somewhat slow week for the Dubai Air Show, with less-than-expected jet deals taking place, Airbus was able to nab itself another GCC agreement. Low-cost carrier (LLC) Air Arabia agreed to order 170 A320s worth $14bn,
The sector slowdown has been brought upon by a hesitant aviation market, with international ongoings proving unsettling. From an ongoing trade war between US and China, to unstable oil prices following US sanctions on Iran, to political instability in some regions in the Middle East and elsewhere, as well as the now-infamous fatal crashes of the faulty Boeing 737-MAX models, industry players have had to be careful. Still, Emirates’ commitment proves they are confident moving forward.
The Dubai Air Show ends on Thursday November 21st.