Emirates’ New Airbus A350 Fleet – What Do We Know?

It was back in November 2019 that Emirates placed a memorable order for 50 Airbus A350-900 XWB. The Middle Eastern carrier was excited about the deal with the hope that the aircraft would give Emirates the option to grow into new markets. However, nine months on, and that might change.

Airbus A350-900XWB at Singapore Airshow
What is happening with the Emirates A350 order? Photo: Airbus

Emirates orders the A350

You’ll likely remember the news when Emirates upped its A350 order at the Dubai Airshow. It was a bold statement with a hefty price tag, and the occasion was filled with hope.

On February 14th, 2019, Emirates placed an order for 30 A350-900 XWB alongside a further 40 A330-900s in a deal worth $2.14bn according to the list price. At the time, the decision was taken to help develop Emirates’ future network giving it the flexibility to grow.

However, a few months down the line, Emirates changed its mind. It wanted more of the A350. Therefore, at the Dubai Airshow, it increased its order to 50, adding 20 aircraft. The firm order on these 50 A350-900 aircraft alone was valued at $16bn.

Emirates A350-900 mock up
Emirates’ A350 order came in at $16bn for 50 of the model. Photo: Airbus

Why is the A350 so attractive to Emirates?

In the A350, Emirates sees a vital part of its mission. It wants only the best for its fleet and strives for a young, efficient, and up-to-date set of widebody aircraft. Emirates’ current fleet is relatively young with an average age of 7.4 years across aircraft including:

  • A319;
  • A380; and
  • Boeing 777.

With a range of 15,000km, the Airbus A350 has the potential to open up Emirates’ routes. It can fly 15-hour long-haul stints from Dubai, which is very attractive to the airline.

Speaking in a press release last year, the CEO of Emirates HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum said,

“…We are confident in the performance of the A350 XWB. […] The A350s will give us added operational flexibility in terms of capacity, range and deployment. In effect, we are strengthening our business model to provide efficient and comfortable air transport services to, and through, our Dubai hub.”

A350 at Singapore Airshow underbelly
The A350-900 XWB has an excellent range, which will open up Emirates’ route network. Photo: Airbus

What is the future of the A350 order?

Emirates’ first A350 deliveries were meant to take place from 2023 and would have been delivered over the following five years. However, since then, things in the aviation landscape have changed, and the Middle Eastern airline is not immune.

Earlier this year, the President of Emirates Tim Clark was present in an interview with Arabian Travel Market Virtual. He said that the future of the A350 could change. In a statement recorded in an article by Bloomberg, Clark lamented that,

“We are nowhere near confident enough that the economics, the cash flows, the bottom line will put us in a good position to be able to guess if we’ll buy a hundred of this or a hundred of that.”

Airbus XWB on the wing
Emirates doesn’t yet know if it will retain the A350 order. Photo: Airbus

Instead, Emirates needs to rethink what its priorities and strategy will be in the coming years. Cash preservation is always the top of its mind, and with such a large purchase price, the A350 order, among other jets for which the airline awaits delivery, creates a significant financial drain.

Despite that, it is not yet clear what Emirates plans to do with its A350 order. Instead, the airline will wait until travel demand and forecasting become clearer before it decides the fleet strategy.

Do you think Emirates will keep its A350 order? Do its advantages outweigh the cost implications at some level? Have your say in the comments.