Dubai: Airbus SE is set to bring home a last-minute sale at the Dubai Airshow with Emirates, which is close to purchasing more of its A350-900 aircraft, according to people familiar with the discussions, in a compromise order after the airline said the larger variant of the widebody didn't meet its expectations.
Industry sources said the two sides were trying to secure a compromise deal involving a switch from the A350-1000, Airbus' largest twin-engined jet which has fallen under the spotlight over the amount of downtime needed in Gulf conditions.
Airbus said it doesn't comment on speculation, while Emirates declined to comment.
Emirates is by far the biggest user of Airbus's A380 superjumbo after investing heavily in the world's largest airliner and is now planning the fleet needed to keep its Dubai super-hub at the centre of the aviation map beyond the 2030s.
The carrier opened this week's air show with a $52 billion order for 90 more Boeing 777X airplanes, saying the U.S. planemaker appeared to be getting a grip on regulatory and other problems surrounding its arrival after five years of delays.
The mood at the Airbus chalet turned gloomy after the airline's president, Tim Clark, called the A350-1000 "defective" because of what he said are overly frequent maintenance cycles on the engines.
Airbus's flagship aircraft is powered exclusively by Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc engines, and Clark said on Tuesday that the hot climate in the Middle East and high utilization of planes are less forgiving on modern engines like those powering the A350-1000.
While a purchase of the A350-900 wouldn't be what Airbus had initially hoped for, it would let both sides make up after the public falling out at the show. It would also give Emirates a placeholder agreement to convert some A350-900s to the -1000 version once the airline's concerns about engine performance are satisfied. Clark said on Tuesday that he's content with the actual aircraft, and that it's the engines that need improvement.
A compromise order for fewer than 20 A350-900s, which could still blow off course in final negotiations, would be seen as a consolation prize for Airbus after Boeing won the majority of orders, delegates said.