John Kelly Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/ Gulf News

Dubai: Engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce has engaged in talks with Emirates to power its fleet of 40 Boeing 787-10s the carrier announced on Sunday in a deal worth $15.1 billion in list prices.

“Emirates has not yet made an engine selection. We will be working closely with Emirates on that,” John Kelly, Rolls-Royce’s Vice-President, Customers for the Middle East, told Gulf News in an interview on Monday, adding that Rolls-Royce has “engaged” in talks already with the airline on that.

Kelly, however, did not give any time frame for a decision to materialise. Asked if Rolls-Royce was hopeful of bagging the order, he said: “It’s completely in their [Emirates] hands.”

His comments come a day after Shaikh Ahmad Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of Dubai Civil Aviation and Chairman and CEO of Emirates Airline and Group, said that the airline is still looking at the engine options for its Dreamliner order, and that an announcement could come soon.

The British engine manufacturer has a current agreement to power 52 of the Emirates’ A380s besides five of the 777-200s, according to Kelly. “We have delivered 10 of the 52 A380s already,” he said.

Analysts, meanwhile, say the deal could go in any direction and that it may eventually boil down to pricing. “Both engine makers [GE and Rolls-Royce] are experts at ‘pricing to the point of economic equivalence’ as they understand their competitor’s performance and fuel burn, and can adjust their by the hour pricing to make-up any difference,” points out US-based analyst Ernest S. Arvai. “Engine manufacturers make their money on spares, so getting the initial order can sometimes be at any cost.”

Saj Ahmad at StrategicAero Research is also of the view that Emirates’ engine selection could go either way … “given Emirates’ close relationship with GE thanks to their huge 777 fleet and upcoming 777X.”

Emirates, meanwhile, had expressed its unhappiness with Rolls-Royce about a year ago, saying their A380 engines were not up to standard. The airline had ordered 217 Trent 900s to power 50 superjumbos in a deal worth $1.6 billion.

Globally, Rolls-Royce has a total of 700 engines either in service or on order. In the Middle East alone, it has 469 aircraft in service / on order from 34 operators.

With Etihad Airways, meanwhile, Rolls-Royce powers 31 of the A330s in fleet with a further 62 A350s on order, Kelly said.

Elsewhere in the region, Rolls-Royce will go into service with Gulf Air to provide engines for 10 of the airline’s 787 Dreamliners. “That will be with our Trent 1000 engines,” Kelly said. He added that within Saudia, Rolls-Royce has a “large and growing fleet of A330s”, powering 20 of those.

Middle East share

The Middle East accounts for nine per cent of Rolls-Royce’s large civil engines in service globally, Kelly said, adding that the region, however, accounts for 23 per cent of Rolls-Royce large civil engines on order worldwide. And the vast majority of that 23 per cent of on-order engines will be delivered “over the next five years.”

Kelly pointed out that Rolls-Royce is currently leading the civil aerospace wide-body market with 46 per cent share globally, adding that he sees it moving up to “50 per cent” over the next few years.

Rolls-Royce last week announced the opening of its first customer service centre (CSC) for the Middle East and Africa region, headquartered in Abu Dhabi. It is scheduled to open at the end of this year, Kelly said.