Airbus is attempting to break the Emirates A350-1000 jets order stalemate

Airbus is working towards a compromise to resolve a hold-up in the order of dozens of A350s from Dubai's Emirates. This comes after Ethiopian Airlines agreed to a deal for 11 of the most popular versions of the jet. Talks at the Dubai Airshow to save a delayed order for long-haul jets, potentially switching to the A350-900 version, are expected to continue into Thursday due to a dispute with Rolls-Royce over engine performance on the larger A350-1000. 


Emirates Airline President Tim Clark raised concerns about increased engine downtime in harsh Gulf conditions and higher servicing prices, which are hindering an order for between 35 and 50 A350-1000 jets. Rolls-Royce responded by stating it is improving the durability of Trent XWB-97 jet engines that power the A350-1000, but refuted Clark's claim that the engines were "defective". A potential compromise could see Emirates purchasing more A350-900s while Rolls-Royce explores ways to enhance engine durability on the larger A350-1000. Clark has previously praised the A350-900, the most widely sold version of the long-haul family, as a "very good airplane". Emirates has already ordered 50 A350-900s, the first of which is due to arrive in mid-2024. 


Airbus secured an additional order for 11 of the same model from Ethiopian Airlines on Wednesday, following a delay that delegates also attributed to engine pricing talks with Rolls-Royce. The cost and maintenance of engines have become a pressing topic as airlines weigh the fuel savings from the latest engines against the rising cost of keeping them maintained and flying over 20 years of service. Emirates and Airbus had been close to finalizing a deal on Tuesday but it later fell apart. The reasons for the breakdown of the agreement at that stage are unclear. An Emirates A350 order would help rebalance the show after Boeing and engine maker GE dominated the opening with a $50 billion order including 90 777X jets on Monday. While the A350-900 is a significant aircraft, it doesn't compete directly with the larger 400-seat 777X. An industry insider warned that opting for the A350-900 could imply that Airbus lacks a 777X competitor that performs well in all climates, as the A350-1000 is generally considered to be underpowered for the harsh conditions of the Gulf. Rolls-Royce stated on Tuesday that its engines perform well in milder conditions, away from the Gulf's heat and sand ingestion. 

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Past air show negotiations, such as the 2017 Emirates purchase of Airbus A380s, have experienced setbacks and required months of additional detailed discussions. The A350-900, which uses a different engine variant than the A350-1000, has not been criticized for durability issues. Boeing has dominated this week's order announcements. Emirates ordered 90 new 777X and five additional 787s for $52 billion on Monday, while its sister airline, flyDubai, placed its first-ever wide-body order for 30 787s. Ethiopian Airlines ordered 20 737 MAX jets, nearly five years after the fatal 2019 MAX aircraft crash that led to the grounding of the global fleet. It also ordered 11 Dreamliners. Airbus secured an order for 10 A350-900s from EgyptAir, which also ordered 18 737 MAX 8 one day earlier, and AirBaltic announced it was purchasing 30 A220-300 jets. Emirates Chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum hinted at a possible agreement with Rolls-Royce, stating that they would sign when they feel they have a good deal. He emphasized the need for guarantees on timing, pricing, and maintenance cost per hour.

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