MIAMI – Emirates Airlines (EK) is considering switching between 30 to 40 of its Boeing 777x orders for those of the smaller Boeing 787 Dreamliner. This is more than a third of the airline’s initial 777x order.

Though COVID-19 has had a massive impact on the demand for twin-aisle aircraft, EK had previously swapped 777X orders for the Dreamliner before the pandemic even began. The Dubai-based carrier announced in November 2019 a deal to purchase 30 Boeing 787 Dreamliners, as well as a reduction in its initial order of Boeing 777X aircraft from 156 to 126. At the time, EK President Tim Clark had cited his frustration with delays in safety approval and production for the Boeing 777X.

Specifically, Clark stated he wanted to put the Boeing 777X “through hell on Earth” before letting passengers get on board. Talks about the switch to the Dreamliner were already on Boeing’s table since August of last year.

Boeing 777X final short in Everett Pain Field Airport (KPAE) Photo: Brandon Farris

Order Withdrawals

This potential switch would reduce the order of 777X planes into the double-digits. The aircraft’s debut has been pushed back to late 2023, a delay that could cost Boeing 40% of their 777X deliveries. The US planemaker stated this latest delay could give customers the right to walk away from sales contracts.

The standard contract terms for airline deliveries state that airlines can withdraw from their orders if the delivery is more than a year late.

This revelation comes in the wake of the costly Boeing 737 MAX debut, which was grounded after two fatal accidents. The same contract terms that could cost Boeing 40% of its 777X deliveries have already wiped 1,100 737 MAX deliveries from the company’s backlog.

The Boeing 777X has been hailed as the heir to the 747 as the largest passenger plane in the company’s lineup. EK is still expected to be the aircraft’s largest customer and already operates the world’s largest fleet of Airbus A380’s and Boeing 777’s.

Featured image: EK 777. Photo: Francesco Cecchetti/Airways