Emirates has officially announced cutting the 777X deal short by a fifth and opting for Dreamliners instead. The announcement simultaneously denied and reaffirmed the previous theory that the Gulf airline’s dissatisfaction with the aircraft which is not even in the air yet, is continuously growing. Here’s how it went down:

On November 20, 2019, Emirates announced a decision to take 126 Triple-sevens instead of 150, as predetermined in the initial purchase agreement signed in 2013. The Dubai-based carrier remains the largest customer of the coming version of Boeing’s 777 jet. 

Emirates finalized an order for 30 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners, while reducing its order for the delayed 777X airliner by 24 aircraft at the beginning of the fourth day of Dubai Airshow 2019.

Emirates Chairman and CEO Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum reaffirmed commitment to the 777X by stating: “We are [...] pleased to reaffirm our commitment to the Boeing 777X programme and look forward to its entry into service,” as cited in a press release. 

The “commitment” to 777X stands in sharp contrast to the news in circulation since summer 2019, as Emirates president Tim Clark took more than one occasion to express dissatisfaction with the programme, prompting speculation on possible cancellation of the whole deal. 

The day before announcing the adjusted order, on November 19, Clark met with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Steve Dickson to discuss the certification process for the airliner. Reportedly, the Gulf carrier is pushing for a more thorough investigation of the airliner before it is granted the certification. 

“I want one aircraft to go through hell on Earth basically to make sure it all works,” said Clark as quoted by Reuters, adding “we need to be absolutely sure that as she comes together, as she starts flying, everything is done in a manner that it should be done.”

The comments, of course, come in the light of Boeing 737 MAX issues and its less-than perfect certification. Now, with Boeing still working to fix the aircraft software blamed for two crashes, a question is raised: how come the plane was granted the certification in the first place? In addition to speculation surrounding a “too cozy” relationship between the planemaker and the regulator, investigations were launched in the U.S. to determine whether the FAA is capable (has the necessary means) to determine a plane’s safety at all.

However, the troubled 737 MAX is hardly to blame for Emirates’ cooling love for the Triple Seven, as the airline has plenty of other reasons to feel dissatisfied with an aircraft which is not even in service yet. 

Emirates initially expected to take the first of the 150 newest generation Triple Sevens deliveries in June 2020 and have eight 777Xs by the end of 2020. In October 2019, Clark was already certain that would not happen. At the time, speaking at The Aviation Show MEASA 2019, Clark said that it no longer looked like they would have any 777X jets in 2020. 

A month before, in September 2019, Clark delivered a stern message to the aviation industry, namely plane and engine manufacturers, threatening to stop taking deliveries or considering purchases, be it Boeing or Airbus, until the airline’s requirements are met. The requirements include a “99.5%” reliability the airline expects from its fleet ‒ a somewhat impossible mission when keeping in mind the poor track record of delivering planes that are service-ready from day one.