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Emirates airline uncertain about delivery of Boeing’s wide-body 777X jet in 2023
Emirates airline president Tim Clark is not sure whether the world’s biggest longhaul airline will receive its first Boeing 777X jet before 2024, casting doubts on its delivery timetable.
The aircraft is expected to be delivered by 2023 but Emirates will not take any planes unless they fully meet contractual specifications, Tim Clark told aviation consultant John Strickland during an online session of the Arabian Travel Market conference yesterday.
He has yet to see any data on the aircraft’s engine performance capabilities, despite the plane undergoing test flights since last year and Boeing already building 11 of them.
“We will not accept a plane unless it is performing 100 per cent to contract, in the same way they expect us to pay 100 per cent to contract at delivery,” Mr Clark said.
“Unless it is doing what they said it will do ... we will not take that plane.”
Emirates is the biggest operator of the wide-body Boeing 777 jet and has about 140 of them in its fleet. The airline plans to replace retired aircraft with the new 777X version. Boeing said the revamped plane will make its debut in 2023, three years later than originally planned.
“There are issues on the aircraft; I am not clear as to when we are actually going to get them,” said Mr Clark as he pointed to the “stigma” around Boeing’s 737 Max and how that could affect the 777X certification process.
Launch customer Emirates ordered at least 126 Boeing 777X jets from the Chicago-based aircraft maker.
“We should have had the first one in June of last year. They have said the back-end of 2023; we always read that for 2024,” said Mr Clark.
He said it was time for Boeing to conduct “deep-rooted soul-searching” on its business culture after production issues on the 737 Max, which was grounded globally for about two years after two fatal crashes.
Mr Clark urged Boeing to “learn from it” and not make “the same mistakes constantly as you seem to be doing in the last 10 or 15 years”.
He highlighted production issues that have also affected Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner.
The industry veteran also said that Emirates and low-cost sister company flydubai, which have deepened ties in recent years, would forge a closer relationship but not merge.
“The brands will remain separate but, going forward, will operate far more closer than they have perhaps done in the past,” he said.
Emirates is in a better position than it was a year ago when the Covid-19 pandemic first disrupted air travel.
“We are a lot further on and much better than we thought we would be at this time,” he said.
Air travel demand will return at a “staggering rate” if global vaccination campaigns keep progressing, he said.
“The ideal situation is that the vaccine programme beats the virus in its many mutations and that we are on top of that ... let us say by autumn of this year – October, November, December – you get some kind of relief from all of that, demand will come back at a staggering rate,” he said.
“International travel, on the basis of that scenario, will return in large numbers. I do not doubt that at all.”
Cheaper and faster PCR testing, better aligned travel protocols by governments and equitable vaccine distribution are expected to help in unlocking pent-up demand.
“It is a question of seeing how we navigate the next six months and if we do it right – equitable rollout of vaccines to scale, testing regimes are simplified and made cheaper – all this lends to the theory that by the end of the year, we will be back in business at some scale,” he said.
“But we have to wait and see.”
We should have had the first one in June of last year. They have said the back-end of 2023; we always read that for 2024 TIM CLARK
Emirates airline president