Emirates is not expecting to fly the Boeing 777X until at least 2022. That’s a delay of twelve months on the current delivery assumptions. But the chief operating officer of Emirates is taking a realistic view of the problems besetting production of the plane. Yesterday, Adel Al Redha flagged a probable 2022 delivery date for Emirates’ first 777X.
“I don’t see that they will be able to deliver the aircraft in 2021. I think 2022 is a safe assumption to make,” Mr Al Redha said.
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Further delays for 777X expected
The 777X is a stretched version of the Boeing 777. The 777X will come in two variations, the 777-9 and the slightly smaller 777-8. To date, only the 777-9 has been produced, and just two airlines have signed on the dotted line to buy the plane. The first deliveries were originally slated for 2020.
The Dubai based Emirates first ordered 150 of the shiny 777Xs in 2013. The big order encouraged Boeing to push on with developing the long-range aircraft. But getting the plane from the drawing board into the air has proved a troublesome process. The first test flight only took place in January.
The airline world is now also a very different place from 2013. The current woes of both Boeing and Emirates can attest to that.
A number of reasons for 777X production delays
Current delays concerning the 777X at Boeing can be attributed to a temporary production shutdown earlier this year due to COVID-19. There is also a lengthy certification process underway.
In a statement, a Boeing spokesperson said;
“Boeing is working closely with our customers across the business as they continue to adapt to the evolving COVID-19 situation.
“We continue to execute our robust test program for the 777-9, which began flight testing in January… we remain pleased with the progress we are making and with the airplane.”
The Boeing 737 MAX scandal means US authorities are looking closer at aircraft certification. While certification of the 777X began before the problems with the MAX arose, there are flow-through impacts.
But the well-chronicled delays in 777X production could be a blessing in disguise for Emirates. Perhaps that explains why Adel Al Redha is so sanguine about it all.
Emirates looks to restructure 777X order
The long haul carrier with a penchant for A380s is out of step with the zeitgeist. COVID-19 has crippled most long-haul flying. Low passenger numbers and high operating costs make the A380 manifestly unsuitable for most flying right now.
Emirates was pivoting away from the A380 before COVID-19. The more fuel-efficient twin-engine 777X was part of that pivot. But with demand and revenues down, airlines like Emirates are turning towards yet smaller planes.
The airline is actively considering converting some of its existing 777X order to 787-9 Dreamliners. Emirates ordered 30 Dreamliners at the 2019 Dubai Air Show with first deliveries due in 2023. Part of the deal involved converting some existing 777X orders to Dreamliners.
“We will be discussing with Boeing in that regard, if we look at what we can do with the 787. We are in a fluid discussion and in the peak of re-examining all these kinds of things. It does require re-examination, it does require re-thinking, it does require renegotiation,” said Mr Al Redha.
Emirates acknowledges the smaller, more agile Dreamliner could be better suited for flying in the short to medium term. It signals a significant shift in orientation for an airline that has specialized in big planes.
While tinkering with their order for the 777X may further imperil the viability of the aircraft for Boeing, bringing the delivery of Dreamliners forward could also be a much need source of revenue for Boeing, meaning it’s not all bad news.