Taiwan’s EVA Air Reshuffles Boeing 787 Order

Taiwanese airline, EVA Air, has made changes to a longstanding order with Boeing. In response to a shifting commercial environment, EVA Air no longer needs as many 787-10 Dreamliners as it initially did. The airline doesn’t want to trim the number of planes it takes from Boeing. Rather, it wants smaller planes and some freighters instead.

EVA Air has adjusted its order for Boeing 787-10 Dreamliners. Photo: Boeing Newsroom

EVA Air pivots toward smaller planes and freighters

According to a report by Pijus Jauniskis in Aerotime on Tuesday, September 1, EVA Air has adjusted an existing order for seven Boeing 787-10 Dreamliners. Instead, the airline will take three Boeing 777 freighters and four Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners. The swap is estimated to save EVA Air US$112 million.

EVA Air is a relative latecomer to the Dreamliner. The airline first placed an order with Boeing in late 2015 for 24 787-10 Dreamliners worth over US$8 billion. EVA Air has long used the Boeing 777-300 as the mainstay of its twin-aisle fleet. They also have 12 Airbus A330-300s and have accrued nine Dreamliners to date, the first delivered two years ago.

While slow to get on board the Dreamliner bandwagon, EVA Air was one of the first airlines in the world to fly the Boeing 787-10. EVA Air had high expectations for the plane.

“We believe the future of the airline industry will be built on fuel efficiency and cabin comfort. The new Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner’s high fuel efficiency and long-range flying capabilities meets these requirements and our operational needs. These planes will support our growth well into the future,” said EVA President Austin Cheng in 2015.

The 787-10 was made in more optimistic times. Photo: Boeing Newsroom

Changing environment has EVA Air changing aircraft order

The Dreamliners were ordered in more buoyant times. EVA Air’s first 787-10 Dreamliner landed in June 2019. They’ve since accrued five (two are leased). Like airlines everywhere, EVA Air got hit hard by the events of 2020.  Revenue from passenger flights fell 93.6% in the second quarter of 2020 compared to the previous year.

While EVA Air has lost money this year, it could have been worse. EVA Air found its cargo operations booming. Cargo was up 137% in the second quarter of 2020. That helps explain why EVA Air is swapping out some passenger aircraft for freighters.

The adjustment to the existing Dreamliner order was previously flagged. Earlier this month, EVA Air confirmed it was talking to Boeing about changing the order. It was due to changes in travel demand and a need to optimize fleet and network capacities.

“Due to the commercial negotiations, the number and price of the changed aircraft will get announced after the contract is signed,” EVA Air said earlier in August.

EVA Air needs to optimize its fleet and cut costs. Photo: Boeing Newsroom

Decision will save EVA Air money, but a blow for the 787-10 program

A report in FlightGlobal on Tuesday has EVA Air saying the price of the Boeing 777 freighters will not exceed US$382 million each. The Boeing 787-9s will not cost more than US$318 million each.

EVA Air’s decision is another blow for the 787-10 program. While the Dreamliners have sold in large numbers and proved popular with airlines around the world, the 787-10 has been a laggard. Airlines have preferred the smaller 787-8 and 787-9 models. The 787-10 has achieved roughly half the orders of the 787-8 and a quarter of the orders of the 787-9. To date, less than 100 Boeing 787-10s are flying for commercial airlines.

Meanwhile, EVA Air is doing its best to present the decision in the best possible light. It’s all about optimization, change, and saving money. Over at Boeing, things may not be quite so cheery.