Dubai carrier Emirates’ decision to cancel its entire order of A350 aircraft from Airbus will be a big blow to the European planemaker, according to an analyst.
“Emirates’ decision to cancel all 70 of its planned A350 XWB orders will come as a surprise and a blow to Airbus, particularly as the A350-900 approaches the end of a very successful flight test programme ahead of initial deliveries towards the end of this year,” said Saj Ahmad, chief analyst at StrategicAero Research.com.
In a statement on Tuesday, Airbus revealed that the decision followed on-going discussions with the airline in light of their fleet requirement review.
Emirates originally placed the order for 50 A350-900 and 20 A350-1000 in 2007, with first delivery slots scheduled from 2019.
“There had been speculation that missed performance guarantees and weight problems were irking several A350 customers, but with Emirates buying 150 777X jets [from Boeing] with an option for 50 more, there was a possibility that the A350 just would not fit into Emirates newly devised fleet strategy – and this cancellation seems to reflect that strategic shift to concentrate on the A380, 777-300ER and 777X,” said Ahmad.
Emirates, the largest operator of the Airbus A380 aircraft, placed an additional order for 50 of the jumbo jets  during the Dubai Airshow in November. 
In  its statement, Airbus stressed that it shares a “long-standing relationship” with Emirates.
The planemaker also reiterated that it is very confident in its A350 XWB programme.
“Half a year before entry into service, the A350 XWB order book stands at a healthy 742 firm orders. The A350 flight test campaign is progressing well and is on track for Type Certification in the coming months,” it said.
“Interest in the A350 has always been very high  with customers and we expect the A350 order book to continue growing in 2014.”
Ahmad agreed: “There’s no denying that the cancellation  is a huge blow to Airbus and especially so for the slow selling A350-1000, which Airbus had hoped would dent demand for the 777X.
“That said, the A350 has a very strong backlog and it’s not the first time Emirates has cancelled a major Airbus order – the last time it cancelled a deal for A340-600s in favour of more 777-300ERs.”
The first A350 is slated for delivery to Qatar Airways in the fourth quarter of this year.
By: Aarti Nagraj