Emirates Airline has cancelled an order for 70 Airbus A350s, Airbus confirmed on Wednesday. “The decision follows ongoing discussions with the airline in light of their fleet requirement review, as demonstrated by their order for 50 additional A380s”, the company stated.

Emirates placed its order for 50 A350-900s and 20 -1000s in 2007. The first delivery slot was scheduled for 2019. The airline has been publicly voicing its unhappiness with the performance of the -1000 version even after Airbus decided to delay the entry into service of the type by almost two years to allow Rolls-Royce more time for a significant engine upgrade. Emirates Airline President Tim Clark therefore left open whether he was going to take the aircraft. However, his public criticism never included the -900.

In November 2012, Clark told Aviation Week the airline's A350-1000 was in limbo, and the A350-900 “is starting to look a bit marginal to us because of size,” he said. “Gauge is the way we grow, you cannot get any more aircraft into the Dubai hub.”

“It is not the world’s greatest news,” Airbus Chief Operating Officer Customers John Leahy said on Wednesday. “Tim does change his mind from time to time.” Leahy stated there was no impact financially given that first deliveries were only planned for 2019 and spanned out to 2034. “There is certainly no hole in production, I’m not particularly worried at all.” Leahy pointed out that he has already received expressions of interest from other A350 customers who would like to pick up production slots now freed up as a result of the Emirates decision.

The cancellation is not so much a problem in terms of order numbers – Airbus still holds 742 commitments for the aircraft – but it does raise the question whether other airlines are as unsatisfied with the -1000. Other Gulf carriers have also placed large orders for the -1000 variant –- Qatar Airways has bought 37 and Etihad 22 of the type.

The Emirates cancellation does leave a significant dent in the -1000 backlog which has now shrunk from 189 to 169 aircraft. Cancellations are no new experience for Airbus as far as the A350 is concerned. The backlog of the smallest version, the A350-800, is now down to 34 aircraft from a high of around 200. Airbus officially plans to delay that aircraft to revamp it, but industry insiders claim it actually would like to cancel it.

Since the A350 order, Emirates has been increasingly focused on even larger aircraft. It placed an order for 150 Boeing 777Xs and 50 more A380s. While the expansion of the new Dubai World Central Airport has been accelerated, the airline still faces significant capacity constraints for a number of years which would typically lead it to increase average aircraft size for maximum passenger throughput. Emirates stated that “the contract which we signed in 2007 for 70 A350 aircraft has lapsed. We are reviewing our fleet requirements.”