Emirates boss Sir Tim Clarke has opened the door for the carrier to revisit an order for 30 to 50 Airbus 350-1000s if Rolls Royce can tackle issues with its engine’s durability.
Speaking to delegates at the Airlines 2023 conference in London on Monday, the chief executive of the leading Gulf carrier described the A350-1000 as an “excellent airliner”.
However, the airline has concerns about the operations of Rolls Royce’s Trent XWB-97 engine in testing conditions in the Middle East, as opposed to in more temperate climates.
At the recent Dubai Air Show Emirates placed an order for an additional 14 A350-900s, taking the total order to 65.
These new aircraft, alongside Boeing 787s will eventually see the iconic A380s taken out of service by the back end of the next decade as Emirates grows capacity by 80%.
Sir Tim said: “This is the beginning of the third phase of our growth to take us to the early 2040s which sees the retirement of the 777s and 380s.
“We have picked up following the Covid era. Prior to Covid there were difficulties in the trading period – there was the beginnings of a decline in international demand.
“But in the end we resolved to get through Covid – we never thought it would be anything other than a short-term thing. It ended up being a little bit longer than we hoped.
“There were a lot of people out there, in the western world in particular, who saw a paradigm change in demand for air travel. We did not believe that for a moment.
“We decided we were continuing to do what we knew was good for us and what was also good for our markets. We knew exactly how they would respond once Covid was unlocked.
“Those [aircraft] orders are all about the future. It’s a very bullish, very optimistic future, but that’s how we are and always have been.”
Sir Tim said the Trent XWB-97 engine “needs a lot of work done to it” which he said Rolls Royce would be “the first to admit”.
“The question is when that will be ready, and how reliable will it be. So we have parked that particular order. We would probably order 30 to 50 if the engine was ready to go now.
“We just could not get them across the line. If the 1000s come in to play and they get the engines right, by the late 20s, we might look at that again.”
Sir Tim claimed that over the last 25 years there had been a “degradation in the way the OEMs have gone about their business”.
“When I first come into the business aircraft came out on time and they had qualities which were very strong.
“I look back at the wonderful British industry post war and up until we decided to go into the Airbus consortium, the qualities were outstanding. They led the world in many respects.
“Now you have to worry is the aircraft being built the way it should be. I’m not saying there are safety issues, but even Boeing will admit, there are issues about quality control.
“When we buy an A380 and we will fly it 16 hours a day. If you have technical problems it takes us time to recover in a very compressed programme.”
Sir Tim urged OEM’s to concentrate on quality and their own supply chains to get aircraft our on time and “in good nick”, and be less short-term in trying to drive down costs.