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Boeing Continues To Face Mounting Pressure From Airlines

Emirates President says Boeing is in the “last chance saloon."

Emirates is the largest operator of Boeing 777-300ER aircraft with 134 jets in the fleet. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Katie Zera)

Emirates has become the second major airline customer to put pressure on Boeing after last month’s 737 MAX 9 door plug blowout. Airline President Tim Clark says Boeing is in the “last chance saloon,” adding the company wants to see Boeing rectify issues that have damaged its reputation in recent years.

The 737 MAX 9 door plug blowout is the latest in a string of incidents that the Federal Aviation Administration says is due to poor quality control at Boeing, one of the largest airline manufacturers in the world. Emirates operates a substantial fleet of Boeing aircraft and is awaiting deliveries of 777X aircraft, whose first delivery is set to be in 2025, six years behind schedule.

Boeing’s relationship with Emirates is crucial. The airline already operates over 130 Boeing 777 widebodies, and it has orders for over 230 more, split between 777X and 787 Dreamliner aircraft. The airline has operated Boeing aircraft since 1985, and its cargo arm operated 747s until the late 2010s. Losing Emirates as a customer would be a critical blow for Boeing and a huge win for rival Airbus, with whom Emirates has 65 orders.

Emirates isn’t the first airline to put pressure on Boeing after the 737 MAX 9 incident and groundings. United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby publicly announced last month that United would reconsider the 737 MAX 10’s future in United’s fleet as that type is riddled with certification delays. Airbus offered United expedited deliveries of new A321neo aircraft, and Kirby visited Airbus in France soon after.

Like Emirates, United is a critical customer for Boeing. Losing business from United would be a major blow to Boeing’s bottom line, and equally a major win for Airbus.

Boeing is currently under federal investigation for its alleged shortcomings in quality in control. The FAA is limiting the number of 737 MAX aircraft that Boeing can produce while the investigation is ongoing, and additional third-party inspectors are present in Boeing’s factories to ensure any quality control issues are rectified.

Whether Emirates is in talks to expand its Airbus A350 order is unclear, though Airbus would likely be happy to take Emirates’ business. Getting timely delivery slots for A350 aircraft could be difficult, though, so Emirates may give Boeing some leniency to ensure a steady flow of aircraft to replace aging 777s.

Still, speaking publicly on Boeing’s shortcomings played well for United, who received almost immediate support from Airbus. It is not unfeasible, therefore, for Airbus to offer Emirates benefits should Emirates look for other options than the 777X.

Boeing has over 450 orders for its 777X and over 6,000 for the 737 MAX family at the time of writing.

John McDermott


  • John McDermott

    John McDermott is a student at Northwestern University. He is also a student pilot with hopes of flying for the airlines. A self-proclaimed "avgeek," John will rave about aviation at length to whoever will listen, and he is keen to call out any airplane he sees, whether or not anyone around him cares about flying at all. John previously worked as a Journalist and Editor-In-Chief at Aeronautics Online Aviation News and Media. In his spare time, John enjoys running, photography, and watching planes approach Chicago O'Hare from over Lake Michigan.

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