Emirates Airline will stick to its large commitment for Boeing 787-10s despite the Dubai-based carrier’s recent decision to also order Airbus A330-900s and A350-900s.

“They will come,” Emirates Airline President Tim Clark said at the IATA annual general assembly in Seoul. “We still have to close the deals with Airbus and Boeing in the next few months.” The airline had displayed the Airbus commitment in its most recent annual report but not the 787 deal leading to speculation that it may no longer want to pursue it.

Emirates announced a preliminary order for 40 787-10s at the 2017 Dubai Air Show but has not yet turned it into a firm order. When the airline revised its previous large commitment for more Airbus A380s it instead opted for 40 A330-900s and 30 A350-900s. Emirates said in 2017 that it would start taking delivery of the 787s from 2022. The A330neos are to arrive from 2021 and the A350s from 2024.

Clark argued that Emirates is now taking aircraft that came to market after the airline had proved to others that unserved markets existed between many city pairs and were initially connecting through Dubai on large aircraft like the A380 and the Boeing 777. Those city pairs “are now being served with nonstop flights,” he said.

For Emirates, the developments mean a substantial shift in its network strategy. As it de-emphasizes the role of the A380s over time, it will use the smaller widebodies for “ultra-long-haul routes from Dubai that cannot be justified with the 777X or A380. There are a lot more cities that we can do in the US, India and Africa with a 250-seater.” Emirates will also “increase production on existing routes” and expand its network into Latin America.

Clark pointed out that the A380s still provide “enormous market pull” and are operated at very high load factors in the premium cabins, in particular. “We will continue to invest in them and fly them into the mid-2030s.”

He also voiced concern about the entry-into-service schedule of the 777X of which Emirates has ordered 150. “The 777X is six to eight months behind the line already,” he said referring to Boeing’s initial target of flying the aircraft in 2018. The first 777-9 is now expected to fly at the end of June. However, Emirates will be able to handle a possible delay by extending leases of 777-300ERs that the 777-9s were planned to replace.

Jens Flottau, jens.flottau@aviationweek.com