x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Emirates queries Airbus on the A350's progress

Emirates has scheduled a wave of aircraft retirements to coincide with the delivery of 70 A350's but is concerned that the order may not be met on time.

Emirates Airline has called on Airbus to be more transparent on progress with a highly-anticipated wide-body jet, saying production delays or weight issues would cause major problems for the Dubai carrier. Emirates is due to receive the first of 70 orders for the A350 in March 2014 and has scheduled a wave of aircraft retirements to coincide with the delivery.

If the planes are not delivered on time, Emirates could consider Airbus's arch-rival, Boeing, to fill the gap. "It would be a major problem for us if they did not deliver on time, and if they are overweight, then there are issues with that as well," said Tim Clark, the president of Emirates. "We have so many aeroplanes, in and around the A350 entry into service, which are old and need to be retired.

"These [planes] are very important in meshing in our retirement programme, and there are leases and the ending of financing instruments which all coincide with these."I do hope there is clarity and transparency with regard to what is going on with the A350 programme, because this is an issue." Emirates also has options to buy another 50 A350s, which cost between US$190 million (Dh697.8m) and $215m each at list prices, although Airbus reportedly offers half price to bulk buyers.

Airbus's parent, EADS, said recently it had already eaten up some of the margin in the development schedule for the launch of the A350. Saj Ahmad, the chief analyst at FBE Aerospace in London, said Airbus was in danger of experiencing the same trouble that earlier befell Boeing as its 787 Dreamliner project was delayed. "Airbus still asserts a mid-2013 delivery for the first A350, but the omens for this look very bleak," he said.

"The A350 is increasingly under the spotlight, just as the 787 was. While Airbus still works to define the aeroplane ahead of final assembly early next year, concerns from suppliers and now customers like Emirates clearly show that they are worried about delays and weight issues which invariably impact performance." Mr Clark warned Airbus that it did have alternatives, such as Boeing's 777, the most popular aircraft in the 300-400 seat category that Airbus is taking on with its A350.

With a fleet of 145 aircraft and another 146 on order, Emirates is the world's largest purchaser of wide-body aircraft. It is expected to announce another order this year for about 10 airliners from Boeing and Airbus to accelerate its expansion programme amid growing demand. The upcoming order is "more a question of looking at the pace and the scale of how we want to grow the business now, bearing in mind since the world's worst recession, I'm told since the 1930s, our business has gone north, not south", Mr Clark said.

igale@thenational.ae