The latest order from Emirates suggests the engine makers are in for another round of tough bargaining.  No engines were selected for the latest deal.

Currently, Emirates is not only the largest A380 operator, it is the future of the entire program.  The latest order bought Airbus another decade and could be considered as a very big gift to the OEM.

We spoke with an A380 captain who told us that from his perspective he could not tell any difference in the aircraft’s performance with either engine type.

Rolls-Royce

The company won the last round of Emirates orders.  Since the start of the program, the Rolls Trent 900 has seen three upgrades.  The engine is now performing at spec and these are the engines that Emirates has received.

The engines Emirates now have, are obviously more modern than the older ones and will have had improvement work done during their life. This is typical of all engine programmes to improve fuel burn efficiency and durability. This can be achieved both via some improvements to physical parts as well as software updates to help manage the engine more efficiently. We understand that Rolls-Royce has improved fuel burn efficiency on the engine by at least 1% since it first entered the market – a not insignificant amount and in-line with other engines in their fleet.

But looking forward, it is unlikely Rolls-Royce can build a business case to improve the current engine.  The A380 market probably does not provide an ROI.  It would seem then, from the Rolls-Royce perspective, the current updated Trent 900 is what they will offer Emirates.  Rolls-Royce, in our view, would think the deal will come down to price, again.  They won the last deal this way and probably feel some confidence they can do it again if it makes commercial sense.

Engine Alliance (EA)

The company won the first several rounds of Emirates orders (for the first 90 aircraft), and EA has since worked with Emirates to stand up engine maintenance work in Dubai. So despite losing the last deal, they still have a close relationship with Emirates.

EA claims the GP7200 has a 1.3-1.4% advantage over the Trent 900, even with the improvements that Rolls-Royce has made. EA feels that on long-haul routes like Dubai-Los Angeles, this could allow Emirates to carry more passengers and thus generate more revenue. In addition, EA claims the GP7200 is achieving a time onwing at Emirates that’s 2x to 4x longer than the Trent 900.

EA has spoken previously about the technical potential for a GP7200 PIP; however, they have always noted that the business case would have to make sense. Whether or not the manufacturer could or would offer Emirates a PIP for this order remains to be seen.

EA’s public response so far has been: “EA member companies, partners companies, and suppliers have retained the tooling and capability to produce the GP7200 and is prepared to adjust production accordingly.

We currently power 90 Emirates A380s (with more than 360 engines), with maintenance performed at Emirates Engine Maintenance Centre in Dubai. We remain committed to powering Emirates for years to come, and we would welcome the opportunity to work with Emirates to grow its A380 fleet.

Engine Alliance’s GP7200 engine is the quietest, most reliable, most efficient engine for the A380. This engine has been proven to be the most capable, most durable engine in the Middle East, with the longest time onwing.”

The bottom line for EA, though, it that the company appears confident going into an engine selection campaign – especially now that Emirates is able to compare the performance of both the Trent 900 and the GP7200 side-by-side.

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