Emirates’ order for 40 Boeing 787-10s should not surprise anyone, because it fits naturally into the airline’s fleet plans, President Tim Clark told Aviation Daily at the Dubai Airshow.

The carrier in 2007 placed an order for 70 Airbus A350s, which it canceled in 2014. But since then, it has ordered Boeing 777-300ERs and 777x aircraft, and these aircraft can fulfill the missions envisioned for the A350s. The airline also has since added to its A380 order book. Into this changed fleet mix, the 787-10 was the perfect fit, while the A350-900 may have been more capable than the airline needed. “The A350-900 was designed for ultra-long range, and we don’t need any more long-range aircraft,” Clark said in an interview.

The Boeing 787-8 and 787-9 were too small for Emirates’ needs, Clark added. But the -10 variant—which in Emirates’ configuration would seat between 240-330 passengers, depending on if two- or three-classes—is the right size for the fleet. Its operating range of “about 8 hours” would allow the aircraft to serve 85% of Emirates’ network, Clark said.

Emirates also caused a splash at the Dubai Airshow with its unveiling of new first-class cabins on its future 777 deliveries. The cabin is configured with six fully enclosed suites, or three across. The middle suite does not have windows to the outside, but has virtual windows, screens on which a view from the exterior of the aircraft is shown.

“If anyone understands what the first-class passenger wants, it’s Emirates,” Clark said. “We see strong demand for our first-class product, and we are innovators that others follow.” The virtual windows are “a bit of fun.” 

Clark became more serious when he turned to the topic of open skies, an issue that continues to sour relations between the three largest U.S. carriers and Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways. The issue is that American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines, and their unions, say they cannot compete against what they say are subsidized Persian Gulf airlines. The U.S. carriers are asking the government to freeze the Persian Gulf airlines’ capacity to the U.S. until the U.S. and the governments of the United Arab Emirates and Qatar hold consultations on the open skies agreements. The Gulf carriers deny these claims and say freezing capacity would abrogate open skies agreements.

Referring to the three U.S. carriers, he asked, “Just what is their problem?”

“The U.S. airlines have not established a case under the existing rules to prove or show cause that they have been harmed,” he said. Clark dismissed the U.S. carriers’ campaign as empty rhetoric and said he does not believe their arguments are gaining traction with the Trump administration or among lawmakers. “We are keeping a watchful eye on this.”

The U.S. created the concept of open skies, and these agreements have changed the world, making it less expensive to fly and therefore allowing more people to travel. So, Clark finds it a bitter irony that three U.S. carriers, which led the way in a liberalized air transport market, are fighting the model now. “I remain perplexed,” Clark said.

“Had it not been for open skies, Boeing would have sold 50% fewer aircraft,” Clark noted.