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Emirates chief bemoans Boeing and Airbus duopoly

Emirates chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum has called for more competition in aircraft construction Reuters/Satish Kumar
Emirates chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum has called for more competition in aircraft construction
  • CEO: Lack of choice is ‘trouble’
  • Boeing orders delayed
  • Challengers unlikely, say experts

Emirates chairman and chief executive Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum has bemoaned the duopoly that exists between Boeing and Airbus Group when it comes to the production of wide-body aircraft.

The Dubai flag carrier has experienced lengthy delivery delays stretching back five years for its Boeing 777X aircraft, while concerns were also raised this week over the Rolls-Royce engines in the new Airbus A350 planes.

“What’s available today in the market is the trouble,” Sheikh Ahmed said at the Dubai Airshow on Tuesday.

Emirates announced a $52 billion order for 90 new 777X aircraft on Monday.

The order is made up of 55 777-9 planes, due to be delivered in 2025, and 35 777-8s, with a delivery date of 2030.

Sheikh Ahmed said they have taken the latest delivery dates “very seriously”, but called for more competition in the sector.

“We hope that somebody else will come up with something that will be different, but who will that be? Is it the Brazilians (Embraer), the Canadians (Bombardier)? They are all single-aisle aircraft,” he said.

“We try to push all the time.”

Dubai Airport's terminal 3, home to Emirates and FlydubaiDubai Airports
Dubai Airport’s terminal 3, home to Emirates and Flydubai

Emirates operates one of the youngest fleets in the world, made up entirely of A380 and Boeing 777 aircraft.

Kuwait Airways said this week that they are looking for compensation from Airbus over delivery delays in their order of commercial jets.

The state-owned carrier’s Airbus order book includes seven A330-900 and two A350-900 aircraft, as well as nine A321neo and one A320neo.

“There will be some compensation from Airbus themselves, they have to because we are affected,” Abdulmohsen Salem Alfagaan, chairman of Kuwait Airways, said in an interview with Reuters.

Boeing’s latest commercial market outlook report projects delivery of 3,025 new planes in total to the Middle East by 2042, which includes 1,350 wide body jets.

“The whole supply chain and production line of wide-bodied aircraft requires massive ramping up and tooling which makes it really hard for new entrants –  especially when the market is effectively a duopoly,” said John Grant, partner at Midas Aviation.

“From the customer’s perspective, moving to an alternate supplier with no reputation, limited market experience etc, would be a huge move, hence the reluctance of anyone to challenge the status quo.”

Adult, Female, PersonEmirates
The onboard lounge in an Emirates A380 airliner

One potential challenger to the American and European manufacturers is the C929 wide body passenger jet developed by the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (Comac).

The state-backed company launched its C919 passenger services in May and Qi Xuefeng, vice president of Comac, told an aviation conference in June that the design of the C929 wide-body passenger jet was progressing.

Since 2008, Comac has received a series of capital injections, totalling 50 billion yuan ($7 billion) in paid-up capital to the first half of this year, according to a report by Nikkei Asia.

Meanwhile, ambitions by Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industry to develop its own homegrown wide-body aircraft were abandoned earlier this year after countless delays and increasing costs.

Linus Bauer, founder and managing director of Bauer Aviation Advisory, told AGBI he did not expect any change to the status quo in the next 15 years.

“The market for wide-body jets is complex and requires significant investment in technology, safety and compliance with international regulations,” he said.

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