Stock - Emirates
Aircraft makers have so far found themselves short in getting their production to match what's been promised to airlines. There is still much catching up to do. Image Credit: Bloomberg

Dubai: It could be mid-2024 before aircraft production returns to some normalcy after an exceptionally difficult phase for airlines wanting to expand their fleet, says Tim Clark, Emirates’ President. The Dubai airline has 165 aircraft on order.

“I think like everybody else, they (Airbus and Boeing) realised fairly late in the day they would face supply chain challenges post-pandemic,” said Clark. “By which time, they had laid off staff and marginalised a lot of other resources that go into the production of aircraft (leading to supply chain challenges).

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He remains confident these issues would sort themselves out by mid-next year. “Supply chains will respond to demand. As long as demand is there, they will sort themselves out, which is why probably in the middle of next year, you'll get to some degree of normalcy.”

However, pre-dating the ongoing supply chain issues is the pursuit of fuel economy by the aviation industry, through reducing the weight out of aircraft and propulsion. “This has nothing to do with supply chain,” said Clark. “It was a belief they could produce the technologies and the materials to drive those technologies that will give you the full fuel reductions that we all aspire to. The fact of the matter is, they caught themselves short.

“They overpromised, they couldn't deliver and the technology wasn't there for them. Now, they're paying the price.”

Will Emirates order new jets?

Commenting on whether Emirates is on the market for new planes over the existing 165 aircraft order, Clark said: “We are always looking at new orders… but the likes of Boeing constrain us with regard to the torrid time they have been through.”

However, in a separate interview with Bloomberg TV, Clark said Emirates would probably order more in the coming months. He declined to share details, including the manufacturer the airline was speaking to or the size of the order.

The airline is also looking to secure timely delivery slots with Boeing and Airbus as it has backlogs for the 777X that it plans to bring into service from the summer of 2025 and the long-awaited Airbus SE A350 model, where deliveries are expected from August 2024.

In the meanwhile, the airline President said Emirates is extending the life of its existing A380 super jumbo and 777 fleet.

He said: “We can no longer rely on (airline) manufacturers to give us what they say they will when we want them. So, we entered the retrofit program. And that will mean that we can retain a fleet of 165 aircraft come what may from the manufacturer. If they slow their deliveries, we will retain them for longer.”

When will Emirates hit 100% capacity?

Clark also said the airline faced challenges getting its remaining A380s flying after the pandemic. “I don’t think we will be back to full pandemic (capacities) until we get all these A380s remediated on their technical side because they had be sitting for so long. We had 86 flyings last year, and we need to get another 20-30 in the air as soon as possible,” said Clark, noting supply chain issues were weighing on the refurbishment process. Emirates has a total fleet size of 263 aircraft (Boeing 777s+A380s).

He added: “Maybe by the summer of 2024, we will get all the A380s in the air again.” After that, the carrier will expand to 15-20 destinations in the Americas, Africa and elsewhere. “When the A350s come along (depending on whether the 777s are on track), then we would be looking at African, European and Asian destinations with those aircraft,” Clark added. At the moment, Emirates is experiencing its maximum demand in the Dubai-UK sectors, revealed Clark.

By summertime 2023, Emirates plans to deploy 90 A380 aircraft, and by the end of the 2023 financial year (March 2024), 95 A380s will be deployed back into service.