Emirates has again suggested it might reduce its orders of the Boeing 777X, in light of ongoing program delays and the ongoing affect of the COVID-19 pandemic on air travel.
Airline chief executive and chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum has now suggested that the airline is considering converting some of its Boeing 777X orders for smaller 787 Dreamliners.
“It is always a possibility,” he said, when asked if the airline is considering the move.
Sheikh Ahmed also said that the carrier is already currently in discussion with Boeing over its future fleet of planes, and has its current outstanding orders with the planemaker under review.
“We are assessing our fleet requirements as we speak,” he said.
The airline is due to soon report its annual results for the financial year ending 31 March 2021, which could contain more information on changes to the Emirates fleet and order backlog.
It is not the first time that the UAE-based airline has publicly criticised and shown concern regarding the 777X program, which is now running three years behind schedule.
Most recently, the airline’s president Sir Tim Clark urged Boeing to provide more transparency on the current status of the delayed 777X program, as well as the results of recent flight tests, in light of ongoing internal issues with the planemaker.
At that time, Sir Tim also suggested that the airline may look to revise its 777X orders dependent on said flight testing and revised delivery schedules.
“We would like more visibility on when we are going to receive this aeroplane and what exactly they are going to be able to do with regard to the performance on the contractual side, including propulsion,” Sir Tim was reported saying at the World Aviation Festival online event.
The airline’s president stated that it would be holding conversations with Boeing over the current status of the 777X in the coming months, and hopes discussions with the US planemaker will be “grown up” talks.
According to Sir Tim, Boeing has been forced to change elements of the 777X system and design, due to criticisms from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, which could also lead to further delays in delivery.
The 777X was initially planned to be delivered in 2020, however delivery has been delayed a number of times for a total of three additional years, largely due to additional quality control measures in light of the 737 MAX fiasco.
While Boeing intends to begin deliveries of the 777X in late 2023, Emirates previously stated it doesn’t expect to see its first delivery of the type until 2024.
The Dubai-based carrier is one of the launch customers for Boeing’s 777X, a larger version of its ‘mini-jumbo’ 777, and originally placed an order for 150 aircraft.
Since its initial order, the airline has converted a number of jets to other available types, bringing its current order down to 126.
Sir Tim reiterated that extended delays or performance flaws on the 777X could see Emirates convert more orders.
“We haven’t [got] visibility on either delivery or on performance at this stage in the game. So we are kind of reserving our position on where we are on this aeroplane,” he said.
However, overall, Sir Tim appeared confident in Boeing and its aircraft.
“Boeing build very good aeroplanes. They design very good aeroplanes, I don’t want to cast any doubt on that at all,” he said.
“It’s simply how they are built and under what conditions they are now going to be built, what new quality control regulatory requirements are coming in. That is slowing the whole process.”