Emirates Confirms First Boeing 777X Delayed Until 2023

Buried in an official announcement regarding cabin improvements on its A380s, Emirates has confirmed its first Boeing 777X will not arrive until 2023. Emirates made a splash at the 2013 Dubai Air Show by ordering 150 Boeing 777Xs. It was a blockbuster deal. The first of those 777Xs was due to touch down this year. Now, Emirates will wait another three years.

The first Boeing 777X will not fly for Emirates until 2023. Photo: Boeing

In a press release seen by Simple Flying, flushed with success, Boeing’s Charlie Miller said at the time, “Dubai 2013 has been a truly historic and record-breaking air show for The Boeing Company.” Boeing took orders for 259 777Xs at that air show. The airline manufacturer then expected production would begin in 2017, with first deliveries in 2020. The Emirates deal was worth US$76 billion. At the time, the order was for 115 Boeing 777-9Xs and 35 777-8Xs.

“The 777X will offer us operational flexibility in terms of range, more passenger capacity and fuel efficiency, and we look forward to inducting them into our fleet from 2020,” said Emirates CEO Tim Clark in a statement when he signed the deal.

The 777X program hasn’t gone to plan for Boeing

Since then, things haven’t gone exactly to plan at Boeing when it comes to the 777X. Simple Flying’s Justin Hayward called it a plane that will change the world. However, after that first flurry of orders, interest cooled. Aggravating matters were production delays at Boeing’s Everett assembly line and significant issues with the GE9X engines. The first flight, originally scheduled for early 2019, didn’t happen until January 2020.

Since that initial order in 2013, Emirates has cut the numbers. Late last year, Emirates swapped 30 of the 777Xs for 30 Boeing 787-9s. At the time, Tim Clark said he wasn’t expecting any 777Xs before 2022. Mr Clark said he had no idea precisely when Emirates would get its planes, saying the matter rested with Boeing. Given the problems at Seattle with the 777X, Mr Clark it was largely out of Emirates’ control.

Emirates initially ordered 150 Boeing 777Xs. Photo: Boeing

Last year, Tim Clark lashed Boeing, Airbus, and key suppliers like GE for delays, cost overruns, and quality control problems.

We are not in a business to deal with aircraft that don’t function properly,” he said. Simultaneously, Mr Clark put the aircraft builders on notice, saying Emirates would not be taking any further aircraft from any manufacturer until they can deliver the reliability the airline needs.

In the middle of this year, Boeing announced a further delay to the 777X program. The aircraft manufacturer cited a drop in demand for big planes.

Emirates CEO Tim Clark. Photo: Getty Images

777X delay a short-term blessing in disguise for Emirates?

This year, Tim Clark has enough problems at Emirates without worrying too much about delays in the 777X deliveries. It may even be a short-term blessing in disguise. But the A380 dependant carrier will need them sooner or later. There is a significant shift away from the A380, and in the long run, Emirates will be better off operating cheaper and more efficient planes like the 777X. Mr Clark knows this. But it is a matter of balancing today’s cash reserves against tomorrow’s fleet needs.

Yesterday’s Emirates’ announcement was about their premium economy product to be installed on some A380s and 777Xs. Despite the challenges of flying in 2020, Emirates is pushing forward with its plans for the 777Xs. The Emirates CEO still wants them, but he’s clearly frustrated by the production and delivery issues. However, when they do finally take to the skies, Tim Clark reckons his 777Xs will set the industry benchmark.

When do you think Emirates will finally get the Boeing 777X? Post a comment and let us know.