Emirates seems to be sticking to its previous threats about gradually abandoning the Boeing 777-8 after the aircraft manufacturer paused the program. A quick analysis of Boeing's June order book shockingly reveals the Gulf carrier substituting 16 777-8s for the 777-9 instead, a decade after the initial order was placed at the Dubai Airshow in 2013.

Revisiting the Boeing 777X drama with Emirates

Returning to 2013, it's worth noting that Emirates placed a significant order for 150 Boeing 777Xs, including 35 777-8s and 115 777-9s, in addition to an option for 50 more of the aircraft. This order would have made the airline the launch customer of the Boeing 777X and was only meant to replace the airline's Boeing 777 fleet, with deliveries slated to begin in 2020.

But certification issues resulted in deliveries that never happened, and the program's timeline kept getting delayed - especially for the much-anticipated Boeing 777-8, which has a greater range than the 777-9. As Emirates patiently waited, a new dilemma hit as Airbus stopped production of the A380, the airline's flagship making up the other half of its fleet composition.

Emirates A380 in plant
Photo: Skycolors | Shutterstock

And with Emirates planning to retire the less fuel-efficient superjumbos in the early 2030s, the Boeing 777X will replace the older 777 predecessors as intended, and the Airbus A380s to become the airline's new flagship. While this new plan seems workable, the problem remains that neither the 777-8 nor the 777-9 have been certified and delivered.

But despite the timeline delays and uncertainty revolving around the Boeing 777X program, Emirates has remained a firm believer in the aircraft by showing optimism through talking about the new proposed interiors - all while a handful of other airlines opted to defer their deliveries.

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An unhappy customer

Albeit it could be because the airline and its fleet renewal plans were in a tough spot, it could also be due to good faith between the airline and aircraft manufacturer. Until there wasn't much good faith left in recent times, significantly when Boeing paused the 777-8 by numerous years, redid its design, and seemingly prioritized the freighter version.

Jay-SIngh-Emirates 777X Under Development 29
Photo: Jay Singh | Simple Flying

This means the first Emirates Boeing 777-8 will likely only come after the freighter version is certified and delivered. This led to the airline's President, Tim Clark, often expressing frustration at Boeing's supposed lack of communication and the manufacturer's overall 'incompetence' concerning the Boeing 777X program.

And with the 777-8 paused and the 777-9 expected to be delivered in 2025, Clark also chose to downsize his airline's Boeing 777X order a few times, and the final standing was at 115 aircraft, including 35 777-8s and 80 777-9s. The airline had also previously ordered Airbus A350s and Boeing 787s as a likely backup.

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A potential switch in orders

When the Airbus A350s arrive next July or August, they will be the smallest aircraft that Emirates will operate, allowing the airline to penetrate smaller markets where the Boeing widebodies are usually considered too big. As for the Boeing 787 Dreamliners, Clark previously highlighted the order is still tentative and under review.

This means the airline still trusts heavily on the Boeing 777X, specifically the 777-9, to come through. While Clark has recently emphasized that the order still stands at 115 aircraft, the composition of the order might have changed, with 16 777-8s being exchanged for the same number of aircraft of the 777-9.

Emirates Boeing 777 On The Runway In Prague
Photo: Petr Bonek | Shutterstock

At this time of writing, neither Boeing nor Emirates responded for a comment or confirmation if the airline truly renegotiated its Boeing 777X order. Suppose it is true, then the Emirates order would have 19 777-8s and 96 777-9s. In hindsight, the smaller range of the 777-9 is unlikely to deter Emirates, given its expected quicker timeline than the frozen 777-8.

Source: Air Insight

  • Emirates, Airbus A380, Penultimate
    Emirates has been unable to fly to Nigeria, so local travelers have found other ways of getting to the UAE. Photo: Vincenzo Pace/Alvin Man - Simple Flying
    IATA/ICAO Code:
    Airline Type:
    Full Service Carrier
    Dubai International Airport
    Year Founded:
    Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum
    United Arab Emirates
  • 787-8 Dreamliner
    Stock Code:
    Business Type:
    Date Founded:
    Dave Calhoun
    Headquarters Location:
    Chicago, USA
    Key Product Lines:
    Boeing 737, Boeing 747, Boeing 757, Boeing 767, Boeing 777, Boeing 787