* Says in talks with Boeing on new 777 model
* Says not worried by potential Etihad/Jet deal
* Sees revenue growth of 18-20 pct for FY 2012-13
By Praveen Menon
DUBAI, Feb 10 (Reuters) - Emirates expects a revamped version of Boeing’s 777 airliner to be available to customers in six to nine months, the carrier’s president said, adding technical issues affecting Dreamliner jets will not affect progress.
“The engagement on 777X continues. I believe it will be launched and we’ll see that in six to nine months,” Tim Clark told reporters in Dubai on Sunday.
Boeing appears to be at least a year away from offering a new version of the 777, Reuters reported in November, quoting people familiar with talks between the aircraft maker and its customers.
Emirates, Boeing’s biggest customer, has said it will need to replace its old 777s from 2017, which is prompting the push for a new version.
The airline has been pressing for the 777X to come out sooner rather than later. The 777 is one of the most successful jets of all time in terms of sales, and airlines are eager for a version that can go farther on less fuel with more passengers.
Clark said problems arising out of a series of battery-related issues that led to grounding of Boeing’s 50 Dreamliner aircraft in commercial service in the last three to four weeks is likely to worsen in the short-term but he expressed confidence that the company would address it.
“The problem is extremely challenging for the planemaker and its customers but Boeing will sort it out. It will get worse before getting better. They’ll overcome it,” Clark said.
The groundings have cost airlines tens of millions of dollars, with no solution in sight. Emirates does not own any Dreamliners and it has no orders for it.
Clark also said he was not worried about a potential tie-up between Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways and India’s Jet Airways . Etihad is close to taking a stake in India’s Jet, the Abu Dhabi airline said last week after reporting a tripling in profits for last year.
“I am more threatened by the fact that we have not got more seats. They are already full and we need some more,” he said.
Emirates expects revenue for the fiscal year ending 2012-2013 to grow between 18 percent to 20 percent and expects profits to rise over the previous year, he said, without giving details.
“There will be an increase in net earnings but that will not be without difficulties,” he said, adding that revenue would grow at an annual rate of 18 to 20 percent as it has almost every year for the airline.