* Emirates, Qatar Airways interested in the 777X
* Boeing may not outsource much work -Qatar Air CEO Baker
* Boeing's cash exposure from 787 is tricky - Emirates'
By Praveen Menon
DUBAI, May 5 As they prepare to buy Boeing's
new 777X jet, Gulf airline giants Emirates and
Qatar Airways are warning that Boeing must avoid the mistakes of
the 787 Dreamliner, which cost customers millions of dollars
when its batteries failed.
These fast-growing Gulf carriers are expected to be among
the first and possibly biggest customers for Boeing's latest
offering, which was presented to customers last week.
"For sure they have changed, I hope they have," Emirates'
President Tim Clark said, when asked whether the Dreamliner
crisis has changed Boeing's approach and thinking.
"Boeing came out of the ashes of the Sonic Cruiser years ago
and came up with the Dreamliner, which was a leap of faith by
any stretch. They were just beginning to stabilize when things
went wrong again," said Clark.
Emirates is not a customer of the Dreamliner but is the
largest 777 operator with up to 175 jets that will need
Boeing announced it had begun selling an upgraded aircraft
family code-named 777X, launching a race against Airbus for
sales of long-haul jets.
Boeing, which has just emerged from the Dreamliner crisis,
will now have to convince customers who have lost millions due
to the grounding of the 787s.
Qatar Airways, which grounded all its five Dreamliner
aircraft, would receive compensation from Boeing, its chief
executive Akbar al Baker said.
"Everyone takes risks but Boeing took a very big risk
because they went from ground zero to 100 in one leap instead of
going in stages," Qatar Airways' outspoken chief Baker told
Reuters on board its first 787 flight from Dubai to Doha last
week, after the battery fix was installed.
Apart from Qatar Airways, fast-growing Gulf airline Etihad
Airways has 41 Dreamliners on order.
"We put together a permanent and comprehensive fix for the
issue and we are confident of the 787 safety," Boeing's Middle
East President Jeff Johnson said when asked about assurances to
its Gulf customers.
U.S. regulators formally lifted flight restrictions on the
787 last month and allowed the redesigned lithium-ion battery
system to be installed in airlines.
Ethiopian Airlines became the first carrier last month to
resume flying the revamped Dreamliner followed by All Nippon
Airways and Qatar Airways.
Eight airlines currently own Dreamliners including United
Airlines, ANA, JAL, Air India Ltd, LATAM
Airlines Group and LOT Polish Airlines.
Under questioning from aviation authorities last month,
Boeing said it would more rigorously challenge its test
assumptions in the future, and that its analysis of the problem
could change as more facts become known.
"Things will not be so easy for them in the U.S. now. Boeing
has to learn from that too as a lot of the 787 was
self-certified," said Emirates' Clark.
Clark said the plane maker has a lot to learn from the
"Perhaps Boeing was not quite ready for it all (the 787).
But the crisis helped them learn a lot about design,
The U.S company may also rethink its overseas manufacturing.
"They placed their faith in supplies from overseas
manufacturers and expected them to be as good as they wanted.
That is something they will be less inclined to do now," said
The industry is learning from the Dreamliner experience and
is also pushing harder on areas such as aircraft propulsion,
engine technology, batteries and others.
"Like in every new product there will be continuous
improvement," said Baker.
"Boeing has a permanent solution now but as new processes
are developed, so will new batteries. It may not be the
lithium-ion batteries later, it may be something else. I'm sure
Boeing will look for improvements in the batteries."
Boeing is now offering a new 400-seat version of the 777,
known as 777-9X, and also a 777-8X which would have the longest
range of more than 9,300 nautical miles (17,200 kms), people
briefed about the talks said on Friday.
Both Emirates and Qatar Airways have spoken to Boeing about
these offerings. Presentations were made to the management of
Baker has said that he is very keen on the 8X and 9X
versions of the plane while Emirates' Clark has said
specifications of the new plane suits its requirements. Clark
has hinted at plans to replace its fleet of 175 Boeing 777s with
However, despite the interest, airlines are also concerned
whether the problems with the Dreamliner may result in Boeing's
other programs being pushed back.
"The cash outflow must be quite difficult to manage," said
"The cash exposure is a tricky one and they are also trying
to get the other programs out of the door."
"An aircraft that they thought could cost $6 to $10 billion
is now more than $20 billion."
The halt to Dreamliner flights has cost Boeing an estimated
$600 million and forced it to halt deliveries.