So, it would seem that there's a bit more to the story why the 78J hasn't been firmed up than just having plenty of time before first deliveries. EK's long term fleet strategy is definitely up for some serious review with everything back in consideration.
This has been building throughout 2018.
It started with F9 interest in the A321. EK tried to extract a friends and family deal (keen price and early deliveries), which fell on deaf ears at Airbus.
The A380/RR miss, which instead of at least 2 PiPs (one to match EA/just better, one a step change), has resulted in RR amending EK's maintenance contracts, removing some penalty clauses, and incurring shorter TBO's. And the contract terms perpetuate beyond 12 years, not necessarily because EK will extend operations, but for the leasors benefit. Completely understandable therefore why RR isn't keen to offer engines for another 36 aircraft, and in fact would prefer part of the current 50 order not to proceed.
Then the A380 top up order, which EK thought would be an inducement for Airbus to apply pressure to RR to deliver on the engine specs. And the 787 MoU to encourage Boeing to lean on GE to extract an EA offering. Came to zero.
While this was happening, EK re-evaluated all the current MoU's, prospective and current orders. Is the value of our business really being reflected in our cradle to grave deals? Are the OEM's receptive to our unique business needs?
And the conclusion. Current A380, 777X and 787 purchases offer a once in a lifetime opportunity to extract a mega deal.
Unfortunately for EK, it comes at a time when A & B have never been firmer or tougher about deals, contracts and enforcement, and GE and RR are distracted by issues, developments and future ownership (sorry QF, there will be no free exit on your A380 order, though it will be dressed up to save face).
So the perfect opportunity and storm for EK. The billion dollar question is who will blink first?
The A380 is surely gone, unless there is a remarkable turnaround at GE/EA, which would have to be requested / demanded by Boeing, subject to EK going unconditional on the 777X and 787, and using GE on the 787. In some respects, would be perfect for Boeing, as Airbus will continue to be distracted by the A380, at the same time being able to partly manipulate A380 pricing via engine cost. Despite 4 versus 2 engines, the A380 caps 777X pricing.
If Airbus can persuade EK to switch from the A380 to A350 / A330, how can they (and RR) incentivise and soften the switch? Unique EK versions? Queue jumping? Shareholding in Airbus / RR strategic partnership? Influence a FAL in India in return for....?
An all Boeing / GE fleet would do no favours to EK in Europe, and even Asia.