His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, Jim McNerney, Boeing chairman, president and CEO, Shaikh Ahmad Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, and Akbar Al Baker, CEO of Qatar Airways, gather at a press conference that revealed Emirates’ expansion plans at the Dubai Airshow 2013 at Dubai World Central on Sunday. Image Credit: Zarina Fernandes/Gulf News

Dubai: Emirates on Sunday placed its highest ever order for a total of 200 aircraft — a mix of Airbus and Boeing — at a combined valued of $99 billion in list prices, at a signing ceremony witnessed by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai.

The order is split between 150 Boeing 777X aircraft (35 Boeing 777-8Xs and 115 Boeing 777-9Xs) in addition to options for 50 more planes, valued at $76 billion, and an additional 50 Airbus A380s valued at $23 billion.

Emirates said it is the “largest ever aircraft order in civil aviation and also its largest order announced at any event to date”.

The agreement was signed at the Dubai Airshow by Shaikh Ahmad Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman and Chief Executive, Emirates Airline and Group, with Jim McNerney, Boeing Chairman, President and CEO, and Fabrice Brégier, Airbus’ President and CEO.

“The scale of today’s orders will help Emirates’ future growth,” Shaikh Ahmad said, adding that the demand for aviation services will continue to grow globally.

He further said that with deliveries of the 777X scheduled to start in 2020, “it will take us to 2025 and beyond — replacing aircraft due for retirement and providing the foundation for future growth”.

Sunday’s announcement also includes the purchase of 300 GE9X engines from General Electric to power the 150 Boeing 777X aircraft ordered by Emirates.

According to Tim Clark, President, Emirates Airline, the B777X is potentially “up to 18 per cent more fuel efficient than Boeing 200LRs (long range) and 300ERs (extended range).

“By placing the additional order for superjumbos, Emirates can replace early deliveries of the A380s, which were heavier. The latest ones have better performance,” said US-based aviation analyst Addison Schonland, Co-Founder and Partner at AirInsight.

On the B777X order, he added that the 777‘X’ model has better economics and offers Emirates more performance.”

Meanwhile, Andrew Charlton of Aviation Advocacy says these are not just replacement aircraft. “They are a huge statement of intent. These orders grow airlines’ fleet, making new destinations possible. The long-range aircraft such as the B777-9X will put the United States in range, for example,” he pointed out.


A380 orderbook

The latest order for 50 additional superjumbos brings Emirates’ total orders for A380 to 140 aircraft. The airline, which currently has 39 A380s in service, expects the first 25 of the latest A380 aircraft orders to be delivered before the first quarter of 2018.

“This latest order will help us meet both fleet expansion and fleet replacement needs,” said Clark.

Analysts, meanwhile, are confident that Emirates’ orders will make the airline get bigger and stronger. “While the 777X jets will take a decade or more to deliver, Emirates will use their staged induction to start drawing down and phasing out other early models of 777s as well as dozen or more Airbus A380s that will start to come off lease,” says Saj Ahmad of StrategicAero Research.

Further commenting on if Emirates finally settled for the offered version of B777X by Boeing as opposed to the version it has been pushing for, to save itself from the danger of delays, AirInsight’s Schonland said: “Emirates cannot demand performance from Airbus and Boeing that makes no sense for the OEMs (original equipment manufacturers). They will deliver an airplane that meets 90 per cent of the market demand. Emirates will simply have to come to terms with this… they are big customers but not big enough to move designs completely in their favour.”

Asked if there was a danger of overcapacity in the future vs demand, as Emirates places aircraft order on such a massive scale, Schonland said, there was no such danger.