Emirates Ends A380 Delivery Standoff After Rolls Agrees to Fund Fix

  • Gulf carrier to take first Trent-engined superjumbo next week
  • Rift had concerned cost of unanticipated wear to fan blades

Emirates, the biggest long-haul airline, said it struck a deal to accept deliveries of A380 jets powered by Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc engines after the U.K. manufacturer agreed to fund measures to address performance and maintenance concerns.

Dubai-based Emirates will take the first double-decker with Trent 900 engines from Rolls-Royce on Dec. 16, two weeks later than planned, in light of an agreement involving both technical and commercial elements, Tim Clark, the airline’s president, said Wednesday in London.

“There were some issues on performance, but we’ve come to a satisfactory conclusion,” Clark said. “Rolls are taking care of everything, so we are neutral to the repercussions.”

Emirates, the biggest operator of the A380, is due to take receipt of 50 of the Airbus Group SE planes equipped with Rolls-Royce engines after switching from the competing GP7000 turbine manufactured by an alliance of General Electric Co. and Pratt & Whitney, which powered its first 90 aircraft.

Desert Deployment

Clark said the engine malady involved a “higher intervention rate” in maintaining the Rolls engines, understood to involve unanticipated levels of wear to fan blades stemming from their deployment in Dubai’s desert climate.

London-based Rolls-Royce said in a statement to Bloomberg that it’s working with Emirates and Airbus on getting the A380s into service.

A Trent 900 jet engine in Dubai.

Photographer: Jasper Juinen/Bloomberg

Emirates last year ordered 217 Trent 900s -- sufficient to power the 50 four-engine planes, plus spares -- in a deal that included unspecified “quality improvements.” It’s due to take 25 aircraft through 2019 and 25 more from 2021.

The airline switched supplier on the understanding that Rolls would help develop an upgraded “Neo” engine to help pare the model’s operating costs and extend its lifespan. A lack of interest among other carriers has effectively killed off that plan, and Airbus plans to slow production to just one plane per month in 2018.

Clark said the planemaker is obligated to supply Emirates with its full backlog of A380s through 2026 and that the model will remain core to the fleet. At the same time the airline could explore converting options for more Boeing Co. 777X planes.

787 vs A350

The Gulf carrier is also continuing to review a requirement for smaller wide-bodies, which is likely to see it order the Boeing 787 or Airbus A350, Clark said. The decision has become less urgent given sluggish levels of demand as global economies stutter, he added.

A contract is likely to be placed in time for the new jets to enter service in 2021 or 2022, the executive said.

Work on the introduction of a new premium-economy class pitched between business and coach is at a “fairly advanced stage,” Clark said, and Emirates is likely to introduce the new cabins within a year to 18 months. The carrier has also said that it’s working on a response to low-cost, long-haul carriers which might see it unbundle services that are now offered as a package, cutting the prices of a ticket but charging more for extras.

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