Emirates Considering Adding Narrow-Body Aircraft to Its Fleet of 777s and A380s

Feb 16, 2017

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The future of Emirates’ fleet could move away from wide-body and superjumbo aircraft, as the carrier looks for more efficiency in its operations. In an interview with CNN Money, Emirates’ president Tim Clark said the airline was considering adding narrow-body aircraft to the fleet by the end of 2018.

Under the proposed change of direction, Emirates would look to either add new orders or shift current orders to narrow-body aircraft, including those in the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 lines. The order would then be paired with a commitment for smaller wide-body aircraft.

The consideration of narrow-body aircraft comes as Emirates debates concerns over an international marketplace that wants more amenities at lower fares. In speaking to CNN Money, Clark noted that the reduction of oil prices has forced the airline to reduce fares in order to keep competitive with other carriers. In addition, “global geopolitics” have forced the carrier to consider new business practices moving forward.

As it stands today, Emirates is the only Middle Eastern carrier not currently employing narrow-body aircraft as part of its regular fleet. Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways operates 35 aircraft from the Airbus A320 family, while Qatar Airways currently has 49 narrow-body Airbus aircraft, including one all-business-class Airbus A319 (Caution: PDF link). Meanwhile, Dubai-based Emirates has utilized a fleet of all Airbus A380 and Boeing 777 aircraft, after retiring its remaining A330 and A340 airframes in 2016.

Based on previous business practices, Emirates may very well move forward with adding narrow-body aircraft. In 2014, Fortune reported that the carrier canceled an order for 70 Airbus A350 aircraft, telling reporters at the time that it would revisit its fleet requirements. In addition, Reuters reported that after receiving the first Rolls-Royce powered A380, the carrier would further delay the delivery of 12 additional A380 aircraft until 2018. The reason for the delay was originally announced as a “technical dispute” between Airbus, Emirates and Rolls-Royce. However, the order deferral furthered speculation that the Airbus superjumbo program could be in danger.

Despite Airbus touting the A380 as a congestion-relieving aircraft, the next generation of narrow-body aircraft offers better efficiency in exchange for less range. According to data from Airbus and Boeing, both the A320neo and 737 MAX have a range of over 3,300 miles with fuel-efficient engines — nearly half of the range of the 777-300ER and the A380.

Emirates hasn’t said which routes it would considering operating with narrow-body aircraft, nor if it would consider adding the Airbus A350 or Boeing 787 Dreamliner to its future fleets.

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