Emirates is the biggest customer for Boeing’s new large aircraft, the 777X. However, ongoing delays have left the airline’s president, Sir Tim Clark, frustrated with the lack of certainty over when the aircraft will start to arrive. In an exclusive interview with Simple Flying, Clark suggested that even Boeing’s latest projection could be false, indicating that a 2025 arrival would not be completely unexpected.
President of Emirates, Sir Tim Clark, has often been outspoken about the problems with the 777X program. In December last year, he indicated that he didn’t expect to receive the first aircraft until 2023. He was on the money with that, as Boeing confirmed the new timeline a month later.
Now, in an exclusive interview with Simple Flying, Clark has indicated that even this timeline could slip, noting that it could be as long as 2025 before the 777X arrives in Dubai. He said,
“We should have had the first one in June of last year. And so far, we don’t have any visibility as to when the first one will arrive. It’s either the back end of 2023, 2024 or possibly even 2025.”
The latest from Boeing is that the plane will begin delivering in 2023, although it admits it will be late that year. Indeed, the only customer expected to actually receive a 777-9 in 2023 is German launch customer Lufthansa. Boeing hasn’t said as much, but with things as they stand, the rest of the waiting airlines will be looking at 2024 at the earliest to start getting the deliveries.
Boeing is pressing ahead with the certification process using the four prototype planes, but there’s still a long road ahead. With COVID still slowing down many processes around the world, the potential for a further delay is high. Sir Tim is clearly taking Boeing’s latest timeline for entry into service with a pinch or two of salt.
For a large airline like Emirates, plans aren’t just laid out months in advance, but rather many years ahead. Clark explained that, aside of the pandemic, the airline is now focused on planning its routes and growth through to the end of the decade. With no firm idea of when the 777X will arrive, it’s increasingly difficult to make firm plans, something Clark expressed his frustration with,
“[The delay], of course, is affecting all our plans … we’re thinking now about the back end of this year through to the end of the decade, and where our network is going to be what our fleet is going to look like, what type of aircraft, how many, etc. Now, not being able to factor in the 777-9, or -8 at this stage is a little bit of a problem for us.”
Sir Tim further described how the delay to the 777X is affecting fleet planning at the airline. As the world’s largest operator of the A380, some of those planes are approaching retirement age. Plans were in place to begin retirements as the 777X arrived, but those have had to be shifted in light of the continued delays to the program.
Boeing also got in touch with Simple Flying with an update on the program. Altogether, the manufacturer remains focused on the project.
“We’re working closely with global regulators on all aspects of 777X development, including our rigorous test program. Our team remains focused on executing this comprehensive series of tests and conditions to demonstrate the safety and reliability of the airplane’s design. It is diligent, deliberate work and we are pleased with the progress to date. We also are providing regular updates to our launch customers.”
As it stands, Emirates is set to receive 115 of the type. Its original order had been for 150 777X aircraft, but some were later swapped out for the smaller 787 Dreamliner. Recent reporting has suggested that as many as 30 to 45 more of the 777X order could also be downgraded to Dreamliners, which would be a huge blow to Boeing and its large aircraft program.