Airbus Loses $16 Billion Order For Dreamliner Competitor

June 11--Airbus's rival to Boeing's 787 Dreamliner and 777X long-range aircraft suffered a significant setback Wednesday when one of its biggest customers canceled an order for 70 of the twin-engine, new technology planes.

When Emirates Airlines of Dubai signed the order six years ago, it was worth $16 billion at list prices. Launch customers such as Emirates often receive substantial discounts from list prices, however.

The airline didn't offer much detailed explanation of its decision saying it was re-examining its long-range fleet planning.

The order represented about 9 percent of Airbus's orders for the A350XWB.

The plane was created by Airbus to compete with the larger versions of Boeing's 787 Dreamliner and smaller versions of the Boeing 777.

The airline had been hinting for several months that it was not happy with changes Airbus had made to the design of the plane.

The A350XWB is the first Airbus plane built largely from composite materials. Like the Boeing 787, the A350 promised to cut fuel expenses and maintenance costs because of the lighter, stronger, more durable material used in the fuselage and wings.

Unlike Airbus's own superjumbo A380 or Boeing's 787 Dreamliner, the A350XWB has moved from design to testing without large delays. The first production version of the A350XWB may be delivered to Qatar Airways in December.

Emirates' first A350 wasn't due for delivery until 2019.

Emirates was the second largest customer for the plane along with Singapore Airlines. Both airlines had ordered 70 of the planes. The largest customer is Emirates rival Qatar Airways with orders for 80 A350XWBs.

Emirates entered a massive order with Boeing last November for 150 of the plane maker's 777X aircraft. The airline took options for 50 of those planes at the same time.

Emirates has been largest customer for Airbus's A380 and for Boeing's existing 777.

Some analysts suggest Emirates, for the sake of simplicity in its fleet may standardize on just two aircraft, the A380 and the 777.

Boeing is upgrading the 777 to the 777X configuration. That model will feature a stretched fuselage, new engines and a new wing to improve range and fuel efficiency. The first of that Everett-built plane is due for delivery in 2020.

Boeing has also been campaigning for Emirates to buy its 747-8i, the newest version of the venerable jumbo jet.

That plane has not sold well despite improve fuel efficiency. The company is producing just 1.5 of those planes monthly.

Boeing is also shopping that plane as a replacement for the two-decades-old 747 presidential aircraft.

Copyright 2014 - The News Tribune (Tacoma, Wash.)