Emirates boss Tim Clark has let rip in an interview in London this week. Speaking to Skift, the Emirates President spoke frankly about the problems besetting Boeing, Airbus, General Electric, and Rolls Royce and how they were adversely impacting upon Emirates. The industry is struggling with grounded aircraft, faulty engines, cost overruns, and delivery delays. Tim Clark is not impressed. And as Brian Summers, writing for Skift says, somebody had to say it.
Tim Clark said, “We are not in a business to deal with aircraft that don’t function properly.” Airline bosses around the globe are probably cheering Mr. Clark on.
Why Tim Clark is unhappy
The Emirates president doesn’t have issues with safety. Rather, he has issues with planes being delivered that are flawed, often late, and not 100% reliable. Emirates looks for 99.5% reliability from its planes and minimal maintenance in the first five years of an aircraft’s life.
Emirates is looking to phase out its fleet of A380s, replacing them with long-range twin-engined planes. The airline currently has orders for 231 aircraft, including 40 A330-900neos, 30 A350-900s, 35 Boeing 777-8s, and 115 Boeing 777-9s.
Tim Clark calls them “hugely potent aircraft … that are not being put together as well as they should be.” In the interview, Mr. Clark let it be known that Emirates would not be taking any further aircraft from either manufacturer until they can deliver the reliability the airline needs.
It’s not just Boeing and Airbus that copped a serve from Tim Clark. Engine manufacturers General Electric and Rolls Royce were also in the firing line.
Whilst Rolls Royce is perhaps best known for the issues it has with the Dreamliner engines (Emirates has no Dreamliners in its fleet so dodged that bullet), Rolls Royce does make the A380 engines and Emirates is the biggest operator of A380s in the world (they still have 11 on order).
But “there is no stability in the Rolls Royce program at the moment as we see it,” Tim Clark told Skift. It needs to be sorted out before Emirates will take any more aircraft from Airbus fitted with the engines.
“Is that not unreasonable? … We have 615 people on 15 or 20 of these [A380] aircraft that we own flying around, and if an engine doesn’t work or a part fails, they are stranded at Heathrow or Frankfurt or Auckland. The consequential damage to us is huge because I have to get rid of 615 passengers. I have to disperse them on other carriers, which I have to pay. I have to pay the punitive damages that the Europeans or New Zealand is imposing on us under their consumer protection legislation.”
General Electric didn’t escape unscathed either. Emirates has a large 777X order which will be powered by G.E. engines. But Boeing recently announced a significant delay to 777X development and production, ostensibly to concentrate on more immediate issues such as the 737 MAX grounding and 787 engine issues. But according to Tim Clark, engine problems are at the heart of the 777X’s delay.
“The fact is, the Boeing 777X is delayed as a result of engine issues, and we are unsure as to when this is going to be resolved …. The airlines are now being required to deal with those, and work together with manufacturers to get them resolved. I say no. I say, ‘you give us airframes and engines that work from day one.’ If you can’t do it, don’t produce them.”
Emirates draws a line in the sand
Effectively, Emirates is drawing a line in the sand. As Mr. Clark says, the manufacturers expect prompt payment, but the airlines are conditioned to accept flawed aircraft and delayed delivery. It’s something Emirates is no longer willing to tolerate.
And fair enough. Given the cost of new aircraft, something pretty close to perfection should be delivered.
Perhaps if other airlines publically backed Tim Clark’s comments and put some real pressure on the manufacturers, we might see a speedier resolution of the current problems with Boeing, Airbus, G.E., and Rolls Royce.
Simple Flying approached Emirates for a comment on Mr. Clark’s interview but had not received a response prior to publication.
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