Finally, the day of reckoning is here.
After weeks of deliberations and rumors, Emirates has confirmed that it will be substantially reducing A380 orders. No one is surprised at the slightest. This formally signals end of the A380 program. You can find the Emirates press release here and Airbus press release here.
The last of the A380s will be delivered in 2021. By the end of it all, Emirates would hold 123 A380s, and it will continue to be the largest aircraft in its fleet.
However, there is an announcement even more significant than this.
Emirates announced an order for 40 A330-900 aircraft, and 30 A350-900 aircraft. The deal is worth $21.4 billion at list prices.
A350-900 is the successor to A380. Several airlines before Emirates have chose the former for their long haul operations. I expect A350s to gradually replace A380s over the next decade.
Purchasing A330-900, however, is a whole new ball-game for Emirates. It would be the smallest aircraft on its fleet and goes against Emirates’ earlier “Bigger is Better” strategy. A330-900 is a new aircraft and it remains to be seen how Emirates uses it. The press release says that A330neos will be deployed on Emirates’ regional destinations, and also enable the airline to serve smaller airports.
However several questions remain. Will there be a first class or a fully flat business class? Will there be premium economy? What routes will Emirates operate in?
My bet is on Emirates altering the regional landscape with the newest member of its fleet. I expect a significant addition of routes in the 3-5 hours distance from Dubai. I expect that bulk of this would come from smaller airports in Indian sub-continent and Central and Eastern Europe.