Emirates Airline President Tim Clark expects Boeing to be able to get “a few hundred firm orders” for the proposed 777-8X/9X soon. “All the 777 operators are interested in the 777X,” Clark says on the sidelines of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) annual general meeting in Cape Town, South Africa.

Boeing is offering the aircraft to customers and is widely expected to formally launch the program later this year. Clark hints that he originally talked to Boeing about receiving the first 9X around 2018, but that target has now shifted by around 18 months to 2020 or beyond. Boeing plans to follow the -9X, a stretched version of the current 777-300ER, with the -8X, which would be the same size as the current version.

Clark says the shift, about which Emirates is not happy, is due to the development work needed for the 787-10X. Boeing has an initial provisional order from Singapore Airlines for the -10X.

Emirates has long made clear it is keen to get the 777X as soon as possible. The airline would like to use the aircraft on some of the longest-haul routes in its network. “The 777-8X can fly Sydney-Rome,” says Clark. “That’s a 20 hour flight.” Clark stresses that Emirates has been spending a lot of time exploring how passengers can be accommodated for ultra long-haul sectors by adding bars and standing areas in a space-efficient way.

By contrast, Clark sees the Airbus A350-1000 as an aircraft for 10-12 hour missions. “It does not have the legs of the 777X,” he says. Emirates has an order for 20 A350-1000s that it is understood to be contractually able to walk away from following the redesign of the aircraft and what now looks like an 18-month shift of entry into service until 2017.

As for the A380, Clark says Emirates would “dearly like the stretch” version, however he realizes that Airbus has its hands full with other projects right now and needs sales of the current A380 pick up. Emirates has been looking at putting another 120 seats into a stretched A380. That would take capacity up to 640 seats in three classes.

Clark remains bullish about the capabilities of the aircraft. The A380’s “profitability is astounding,” Clark says. “People go out of their way to fly the A380. It is much better than the 747.”

Emirates has entered the cycle of permanent repairs of the A380 wings for the in-service fleet and currently has two aircraft grounded, with three more to follow soon. According to Clark, Airbus has been late starting the program because the selected MRO providers were not ready. Also, he has noticed that the A380 delivery stream “has slowed down” and some aircraft are several weeks late.

On the other hand, Clark hopes the repairs will take only 40-45 days as opposed to the 56 that have been anticipated. Emirates expects to have completed the repair program by the end of November 2014.