When he gets in the mood to chat Emirates Sir Tim Clarke, considered by many as an airline industry guru, people listen.
And so they should because he never says anything unless there’s actually something to make a point about.
The core of his subtle moan was Boeing.
First off he blamed it for holding back the development of flyDubai, which is in effect Emirates low cost regional arm.
With 140+ MAX on order and 14 of them currently grounded he’s not best pleased. FlyDubai not doing so well impacts Emirates trade and it’s a sore point.
What he also said was that he really didn’t see the MAX being back in operational service until February-March 2020.
His moan about Airbus was less of a complaint but acceptance of an awkward reality. If they could just walk up and buy 140 A320neo’s and get them delivered in the time frame he wanted, that’s what they would do.
But the reality is quite different. Airbus couldn’t ramp up production to that level if they wanted to, and the engine suppliers can barely match the current rate.
There was an implicit implication that if someone could come with a viable alternative to the 737MAX everyone would buy it. Almost to the point of it being a resigned acceptance that Boeing was keeping its customers only because they had nowhere else to go. And you can see the point.
It’s no surprise that the other disappointment was 777-9 and it’s now inevitably late delivery.
However while it’s going to be about a year overdue – not a big deal when you think how massively delayed the 787 was, that ran to 5½ years; Emirates aren’t actually expecting their first until March-April 2021.
There’s no doubt that Tim Clarke uses very British understatement. When he speaks. Nothing is over-emphasised or too direct. Deciding what he means if you’re British and used to the way exceptionalities are expressed in unexceptional ways, it’s far easier to get the real meaning.
In essence Emirates is feeling like it’s a bit of a Boeing hostage. It’s alternatives aren’t viable, it’s choices subject to the whims and failures of a Boeing turning itself inside out.
It’s tough at the top.