Looking to the future, Emirates‘ President, Sir Tim Clark is concerned and has expressed his desire for Airbus to build a replacement super jumbo jet – just bigger in size.
Clark has been one of the most vocal supporters of the A380 super jumbo jet from the beginning. Nearly half of all A380s ever produced were purchased by the Dubai-based carrier. Currently, Emirates has 119 A380s in its strong fleet of 265 aircraft, of which 74 are active in service.
The entire fleet of A380s at Emirates will be back in the air by spring 2023. In an exclusive interview with CNN Travel, President Tim Clark expressed his desire saying both he and his airline is hopeful that Airbus will eventually build an A380 replacement jumbo jet.
“The math tells you that you need a big unit, much bigger than we’re getting at the moment.”Sir Tim Clark, Emirates President
“I was chuckling to myself, thinking ‘Wait and see.’ We started flying the A380 into Heathrow six times a day in October of last year, and we haven’t had a [free] seat on any of them since,” Clark explained to CNN Travel.
Prior to the pandemic, the annual travel growth was 4.5%, which means that it would only take 10 to 15 years to see the global demand surge by 50%. However, there might not be a suitable aircraft for the job since many A380s will be phased out by the mid-2030s. Emirates plans to retire its A380 fleet in the mid-2030s.
“Even with multiple 787s and A350s all busy flying around the world, I still don’t get how you will pick up that growth curve,”Sir Tim Clark, Emirates President
He further insisted that high ticket prices are inevitable given that supply will be suppressed, even though demand will continue to grow.
Open Fan Engine
In keeping with the industry’s commitment to better sustainability, Clark floated an idea for a new jumbo jet with radical “open fan” engines and lightweight composite fuselage and wings.
“Imagine a composite wing and a predominantly composite fuselage. Imagine engines that are giving you a 20 to 25% improvement compared to what you get today. So you get a lighter aircraft, far more fuel-efficient, which ticks all the boxes as far as the environmentalists are concerned,” elaborates Clark.
At the Farnborough Airshow earlier this year, Airbus and CFM International collaborated to test CFM’s cutting-edge “open fan” engine architecture on board an Airbus A380. The Flight Test Demonstrator is aimed to mature and accelerate the development of advanced propulsion technologies, as part of CFM’s Revolutionary Innovation for Sustainable Engine (RISE) demonstration programme.
The “open fan” engine flight test campaign is planned to be performed in the second half of this decade from the Airbus Flight Test facility in Toulouse, France. It will be trialed on an A380 test plane.
“New propulsion technologies will play an important role in achieving aviation’s net-zero objectives, along with new aircraft designs and sustainable energy sources.”Sabine Klauke, Airbus Chief Technical Officer
Future Long-Haul Leaders
Currently, the largest planes in production are the Airbus A350-1000 and the upcoming 777-9, which can accommodate just over 400 people in a standard configuration.
However, Clark believes these planes are too small to replace the A380 in Emirates’ fleet. Currently, Emirates has 50 Airbus A350-900s and 115 Boeing 777X alongside 30 B787 Dreamliners on order.
“The biggest one will be the 777-9, whenever that comes to market, which in our configuration [will seat] 364 people against 484 on the A380s with our new premium economy. And it was 519 before, so you get where I’m coming from,” explains Clark.
Clark also stated that he had expressed his desire for a new jumbo plane to Airbus multiple times. “I’ve spoken to Airbus more than once. I think they’re beginning to take it a little bit more seriously, but at the moment they are concentrating on their single-aisle planes and the A350 line.”
Emirates Massive Fleet Upgrade
Recently, Emirates announced its ambitious project to retrofit the latest cabin interiors on 120 Airbus A380s and Boeing 777s. In addition, we’ll also experience a new menu crowned by unlimited caviar and Dom Perignon in first class.
The Dubai-based carrier targets to retrofit four aircraft every month from the kick-off to the end of the project, continuously for over 2 years. At first, the 67 earmarked A380s will undergrow the upgrade. After the A380s get refreshed and back in service, 53 of the 777s will undergo their facelift. Trials began on an A380 in July. Engineers tested, timed and mapped out every action during the trial.
“This will see nearly 4,000 brand new Premium Economy seats installed, 728 First Class suites refurbished and over 5,000 Business Class seats upgraded to a new style and design when the project is complete in April 2025.”Emirates
Currently, only six of the carrier’s A380s feature the new premium economy cabin. These A380s have been flying to Sydney, London and Paris. Later this year, passengers traveling to and from Christchurch, New Zealand can also experience the premium economy product. These flights will be extensions of the existing Dubai-Sydney services, starting in December.