Emirates inks $9 billion order for 30 Boeing 787 jets, will restart plans to expand airline by early 2020s

Key Points
  • Dubai's flagship carrier Emirates Airline has finalized a deal to purchase 30 of Boeing's 787-9 Dreamliner jets, executives of both companies announced Wednesday at the Dubai Air Show.
  • The deal comes in addition to five 787 Dreamliner sales earlier this week and sets up for a reduction to a prior order of delayed 777x jets. 
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, United Arab Emirates vice president and prime minister, center blue sandals, passes a Boeing Co. 787-10 passenger aircraft, operated by Emirates Airlines, during the 15th Dubai Air Show at Dubai World Central (DWC) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Monday, Nov. 13, 2017.
Natalie Naccache | Bloomberg | Getty Images

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Dubai's flagship carrier Emirates Airline finalized a deal to purchase 30 of Boeing's 787-9 Dreamliner jets, executives of both companies announced Wednesday at the Dubai Air Show.

The deal sets up for a reduction to a prior commitment of 777x jets from the U.S. plane-maker, down by 30 to 126, which Emirates is opting for by employing its substitution rights. The 777 program has faced delays due to engine problems and other technical issues in its testing phase.

The mid-size wide body 787-9 jet is a larger and longer-range variant of Boeing's Dreamliner, seating 242 to 330 passengers in a two-class layout. The order is valued at $8.8 billion at list prices, but a steep discount is typically negotiated by airlines. 

The order is crucial for the American manufacturing giant, whose sales have been badly hit following two catastrophic crashes of its popular 737 Max jet in less than five months that killed a total of 346 people. Its fleet of roughly 400 737 Max jets around the world have been grounded since March.

It comes in addition to five 787 Dreamliner sales earlier this week: two to Biman Bangladesh Airlines and three to the Ghanaian government ahead of its launch of a new local carrier. Boeing also managed to attract bids for some 60 of the embattled 737 Max jet from Turkish-based carrier SunExpress, Kazakhstan's Air Astana and a third undisclosed buyer.

Emirates President Tim Clark, meanwhile, told reporters at a press conference that the airline — the largest international carrier in the world — will recommence its expansion in the early 2020s, following its current period of consolidation. Clark in October revealed lofty plans to expand the Emirates fleet by 30% by the end of 2025.

As of October, Emirates had a fleet of 270 aircraft, including 12 freight. In addition to its order of 30 Boeing jets Wednesday, it announced an order of 50 Airbus A350-900 jets on Monday at a value of $16 billion at list prices. The A350 order had been revised to cancel a prior order of A330neo jets from the French plane-maker, favoring a larger order of the lighter and slightly wider-body A350.

Emirates is the number one buyer of Airbus' iconic A380, the world's largest airliner, with 123 of the planes in its fleet. But its cutback on orders of the jumbo jet early this year led the French manufacturer to announce it would scrap its production. Aviation analysts called it the "end of an era," as the industry's symbol of excess and luxury flight was sidelined for smaller, more fuel-efficient planes now increasingly preferred by airliners.