Emirates unveils mega deals for 68 passenger planes
Emirates airline announced Sunday mega deals to buy up to 68 passenger planes worth 15 billion dollars from Airbus and Boeing Corp. saying they were a vote of confidence in the industry's future.
Sheikh Ahmed Bin Said Al-Maktoum, chairman of the Dubai-owned carrier, first told a press conference of orders for 22 giant double-decker A380 aircraft from the European Consortium and options for 10 more at a cost of seven billion dollars. Delivery was due to start from 2006, he said, speaking at the opening of the Dubai international airshow, the first since the September 11 attacks on the United States.
The airline had also ordered three twin-engined A330 Airbuses worth $450 million and signed a letter of intent for eight of the larger four-engined A340-600 Airbuses worth one billion dollars, he said. Then, without fear of the global recession in the airline industry, he announced Emirates' intention to buy 25 US Boeing 777 passenger jets for $6.6 billion.
"Emirates is pleased to announce it has signed a letter of intent committing the airline to buying 25 more Boeing 777s. They will be delivered between 2004 and 2010," Sheikh Ahmed said. The planes would be used predominantly for "routes to the Far East and Europe. There is a non-stop flight planned next year for Australia." Sheikh Ahmed said: "The dynamics of the aviation industry needs us to plan ahead.
"By 2006 we expect to carry twice as many customers as now. We plan to open more routes, to North and South America for example, to add flights to existing routes. We will announce five new destinations next year," he said.
Sheikh Ahmed said he expected "180 percent growth over the existing fleet." "The order reflects Emirates' total confidence in the future," he added. For the president of Airbus Industrie, Noel Forgeard, it was the result of "very careful, long, exhaustive studies together to fulfill the network requirements," of Emirates.
"It's a historic moment", he said, and a clear sign for the Middle East that there is "no pessimism" in the wake of September 11. Forgeard pledged "several million dollars for the training of local pilots and creating a center for Airbus planes in Dubai." Sheikh Ahmed said the question of engines for the giant Airbus had yet to be resolved.
"We are still in the process of looking at Rolls (Royce) and Alliance engines," he said. The announcements fit a careful strategy for Dubai's expansion outlined by Dubai's crown prince, Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, who projects a sixfold increase in tourism to the Gulf emirate within the next decade.
Emirates registered a 20 percent jump in passengers in 2000 to 5.7 million and a 24 percent increase in cargo to 335,194 tons. The airline in July placed the first order for the Airbus superjumbo A380, but the new announcement overrode that.
Emirates at that time ordered five passenger and two freight versions in a deal which the airline said was worth $1.5 billion. It also took options on a further five of the superjumbos. Development costs of the world's biggest plane are set at $10.7 billion, bringing to the skies the first real competitor to the US Boeing 747. The first version of the aircraft, a 555-seat A380-100, is to be delivered to Emirates and other customers in early 2006.
Part of the expansion plans include Dubai International Airport which is to build a third terminal, as well as upgrade the cargo village, airfield, and infrastructure and support facilities The new terminal reserved for Emirates will be in the shape of a giant plane wing almost one kilometer (3,300 feet) long and capable of handling around 64 parked planes, including the A380 superjumbos.
Dubai, which saw 12.3 million passengers pass through the airport in 2000, expects to handle 30 million passengers by 2010 and 62 million passengers by 2020. If growth continues into the second decade, Dubai plans a totally new airport near the free zone of Jebel Ali, 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of the city center.
More than 450 companies from 33 countries are taking part in this year's airshow. The global industry crisis has lowered participation, with a 10 percent reduction in the exhibition space, but the big names of the industry are present in force.
by Luke Phillips
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)