x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Middle East airlines set back by growing pains

Production delays at Airbus and Boeing are slowing the growth plans of Middle East airlines.

Middle East airlines have become bullish investors in new aircraft, allowing them to fly up to 16 hours to Australia, the US and Brazil.

But their status as launch customers has not come without a price, and production delays from new aircraft programmes with Airbus and Boeing have slowed their growth plans.

Emirates Airline waited two years to start flying the A380 after mismatched software between German and French engineers created wiring problems and delays.

Now, to the frustration of Gulf airlines and other early customers, the Boeing 787 and the Airbus A350 mid-sized jets are also battling with shifting timelines.

The 787 is nearly three years behind schedule and last year Qatar Airways briefly threatened to cancel its 30 orders and acquire other aircraft instead. As flight testing continues, Boeing has said there could be a significant amount of revision needed after issues are discovered.

The first delivery of the A350, with 175 orders among Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways, has slipped back to the second half of 2013. Airbus said recently the "transition phase from design to manufacturing is a bit longer", but it was "more or less sticking to the programme".

Emirates has major plans for the A350 and said it would be a "major problem" if deliveries were delayed.

Critics have suggested Airbus may also be understating the situation. "I even have doubts as to whether a 2015 delivery is achievable," said Saj Ahmad, an industry analyst.