Emirates has been reportedly mulling swapping more of its 777-9 order for the smaller Dreamliner for some months. Today, at the opening of the Arabian Travel Market, chairman of Emirates, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, has confirmed that this is still a possibility as the airline continues to evaluate its future fleet needs.
777X swap still on the cards
It’s been three months since Emirates first signaled that it could be looking to flip some orders for the large 777X in favor of smaller Dreamliners. The airline was reported at the time to be mulling swapping out as many as 45 from its outstanding order.
Now, the chairman of Emirates, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, has reiterated this potential swap, telling reporters at the Arabian Travel Market today that the order is still under review. As reported by Reuters, when asked if Emirates could swap its order book to take fewer 777X jets, Sheikh Ahmed said,
“It is always a possibility … We are assessing our fleet requirements as we speak.”
The airline chairman, who has led Emirates since its conception in 1985, noted that there was an ongoing process to re-evaluate the airline’s fleet in light of the COVID pandemic. As reported by The National, he said,
“[We are] reassessing our plans in terms of fleet requirements, what should be really pushed back, because we have to deal with a market that is shifting back and forth, it goes two steps in front and one step behind or two or three.”
With regards to the 777X, Sheik Ahmed noted the frustration felt by the airline with the delays to the program. Emirates should have received its first 777-9 in time for last summer; now it is faced with the prospect of not seeing the first delivery until 2024 or beyond. The impact of these delays has affected Emirates’ route planning, and forced it to hold on to older A380s past their scheduled retirement date.
At present, Emirates has orders in place for 115 Boeing 777X aircraft, having already swapped out part of its original 150-plane order for 30 Dreamliners in 2019. The airline remains the largest customer of the type by some stretch, with only Qatar Airways with its order of 60 opting for more than two dozen of the aircraft.
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Hopeful for ‘green list’ inclusion
While the Emirates chairman noted that it has been a tough year for the airline, he also said there is hope that demand will pick back up in the second half of the year. He hopes to see borders beginning to open up, particularly between the UAE and the UK. He said,
“It is unfair, we look also at the number of British people who live in the UAE, there are more than 150,000 people living here, who want to go back home to their country and see their loved ones and friends. It is a must. The two governments … are talking about it and sharing information.”
England relaxed its ban on non-essential foreign travel today, which saw hundreds of people take off for a long-awaited break or to visit family and friends. However, only a handful of destinations made the so-called ‘green list’, which allows quarantine-free return to the UK. The UAE remains on the ‘red list’, which means a hotel quarantine of 10 days for the time being.
Over the past 12 months, Emirates has only carried around 30% of the 56 million passengers it had in 2019. While he was positive that demand would begin to pick up soon, he noted that the airline would only fly those routes that made commercial sense. Emirates is due to report its financial results for the year ended March 31st in the coming days.