Emirates, perhaps known as the world’s most “blingy” first class airline, is the latest airline to reexamine their fleet and route strategy. This time, however, Boeing seems to be the one in trouble.
Quite recently, we wrote about how Airbus was set to receive a huge blow should Emirates switch their order from the A380 to the A350.
Now, this doesn’t seem to be a huge blow to Boeing, but one that questions how stable Emirates really is.
In 2017, Emirates announced they had ordered 40 Boeing 787-10 Dreamliners scheduled for delivery starting in 2022.
For Emirates, the 787 was intended to help maintain a very young fleet through aircraft replacement while others were intended to start new routes. The 787 was expected to hold 240-330 passengers in two and three-class configurations. Believe it or not, this would make the 787-10 the smallest aircraft in terms of passenger capacity in Emirates’ fleet.
At the time, the order made sense as Emirates was expanding. The 787-10 was the perfect complement on smaller routes that don’t warrant the 350+ seat capacity on the 777-300ERs and the 480+ seat capacity of the A380s. The 787-10 could also be used to boost capacity on current routes that couldn’t turn a profit with a second, third, or even fourth service from a larger aircraft.
Emirates placed the largest single order for aircraft by cost for 150 777X aircraft at $76 billion. 35 were for the smaller 777-8 and 115 were for the larger 777-9.
The 777X is the latest generation aircraft succeeding the 777-200 and 777-300 that makes up a significant number of the fleet Emirates operates.
Much like their existing A380 order, Emirates is the largest customer for the aircraft type.
Emirates is looking to cancel the 40 787-10s on order in favor of 20 777X aircraft.
By taking a smaller number of 777Xs, this could create a replacement cycle for the 777-200 and -300s Emirates currently operates. In addition, some 777Xs could be used to replace A380s on routes that are not turning out well for Emirates.
Based on this, it would be reasonable to assume Emirates is not looking to aggressively expand like neighboring Qatar Airways. By only flying widebody aircraft, Emirates does significantly reduce the number of routes and destinations to which they can operate.
For flyers, this could turn out to be an interesting experience. While Emirates is known for their first class product, their business class product would take an interesting twist.
It would have been expected for Emirates to go for a 1-2-1 layout in business class on their 787-10s. The 777X is a wider aircraft and even current 777s on Emirates have a dense configuration of business class seats.
Some may be surprised to hear this, but Emirates has middle seats in business class and does not offer direct aisle access! In fact, on the 777s, Emirates operates business class in a 2-3-2 configuration!
The same layout can be found on both two and three class 777s. While the cabin has nice finishes, the layout is quite compact and the seat isn’t up to the standards of some neighbors.
An ideal configuration on the 777Xs could see Emirates opting for a version of the Apex Suites found on the likes of Japan Airlines, Oman Air, and Korean Air while still maintaining a high capacity configuration.
On the A380, Emirates offers a staggered business class in a 1-2-1 configuration.
The 787s would have most probably been in a 1-2-1 layout in business class as well since the 787-10 is not as wide as the 777X.
Emirates definitely does not see themselves in a position to expand capacity to underserved destinations. That could change, however, depending on how talks with Airbus turn out.
Overall, it seems like this could be a turning point for Emirates after extraordinary growth. They could be looking to evaluate a new fleet strategy faced on streamlining pilot training and cabin crew familiarization with aircraft.
We’ll keep you posted on how talks with Boeing and Airbus turn out for Emirates.
What do you think? Should Emirates cancel their 787 order? Should Emirates order more Airbus or Boeing? Let us know in the comments below!