Emirates to Cancel 25 Percent of Its Flights Due to Runway Closure

Published January 13th, 2019 - 11:55 GMT
Significant number of scheduled flights will be impacted by the closure of DXB's Southern Runway. (File/Photo)
Significant number of scheduled flights will be impacted by the closure of DXB's Southern Runway. (File/Photo)

Emirates airline on Saturday said a significant number of its flights will be impacted by the closure of Dubai International Airport's southern runway for an upgrade during April-May 2019 period.

The Dubai-based carrier announced that it will reduce 25 per cent of its flights and not utilise 45 aircraft during the runway closure from April 16 to May 30, 2019.

Due to reduced capacity at Dubai International, Emirates will cancel and re-time flights as well as change operating aircraft.
Dubai airport, on an average, handles 1,100 aircraft movements per day, with Emirates and flydubai taking the lion's share of the flight movements. The reduction in capacity was earlier estimated at approximately 43 per cent - or 473 flights - during the 45-day period.

The airport has already said that airlines will have to reduce their operations during the 45-day period due to significant capacity reduction resulting from single runway operations.

During the 2014 upgrade of the northern runway, Dubai International operated with one runway for 80 days. That closure had cost the Emirates Group an estimated $467 million (Dh1.71 billion) in lost revenue.

Saj Ahmad, chief analyst at StrategicAero Research, said Emirates maximises the utility of its Airbus A380 fleet while being able to more flexibly rotate its 777-300ER jets to markets across Africa where demand is coming back strong.

"This will be a challenging year for Emirates and it's likely there will be a financial impact for its full-year earnings ending 2019. However, Emirates' traditional financial boost in the latter half of the year alongside the planned 2019 edition of the Dubai Air Show will help drive revenue forward in a big way," Ahmad said.

Budget carrier flydubai has already announced that it will operate 39 routes from Al Maktoum International airport at Dubai World Central. Flydubai will operate the following flights from Al Maktoum airport during the 45-day period: Addis Ababa, Abha, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Colombo, Cochin, Delhi, Gassim, Jizan, Ha'il, Hyderabad, Faisalabad, Chennai, Madina, Mashad, Multan, Najaf, Riyadh, Istanbul, Sialkot, Shiraz, Ta'if, Thiruvananthapuram and Tabuk.

Impact on airfare
A flydubai spokesperson said it was too early to know the impact of the closure on the financials of the airline. But it doesn't see any rise in fares despite reduced capacity due to the runway closure.

Commenting on the impact on airfare, Ahmad said: "I don't think pricing will increase at all because that would alienate passengers and it's clear that Emirates won't want to do that. There may be a pricing impact for other carriers who have less slots at DXB who will have to adjust their schedules so they won't have the same degree of financial flexibility to offset lost revenue from decreased flights into Dubai. The only way they can do that is by hiking fares," he added.

"Being the incumbent home operators, flydubai and Emirates will want to keep fares as they are."

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Emirates in 2019
From June, Emirates, rated among the world's 20 most punctual airlines in 2018, will add more flights and seats to several markets in Africa, Europe and Americas, which will help offset the impact of capacity reduction during the runway closure period.

It will increase flights and capacity to Casablanca, Abuja, Accra, Conakry and Dakar in Africa; and Athens, Rome, Stockholm and Zagreb in Europe. It will add Boston in the US and Glasgow in the UK to its Airbus A380 destinations.

For South America, Emirates will continue from Rio de Janeiro to Buenos Aires four times a week, and on the remaining three days, it will operate onwards to Santiago, Chile. With this change, Emirates will suspend its linked flight from Dubai to Santiago via Sao Paulo. Sao Paulo will continue to be served with a daily non-stop Airbus A380 service to and from Dubai.

Emirates said it will suspend flights EK 418/419 between Bangkok and Sydney from June 1, 2019. But it will continue to serve Sydney with three flights a day non-stop to Dubai.

During the financial year 2019-20, Emirates will take delivery of six new A380 aircraft. At the same time, the airline will renew its fleet by retiring seven Boeing 777 aircraft. Emirates will commence taking deliveries of the next generation Boeing 777Xs in 2020.

"The changes we are implementing to our network schedules in 2019 are in line with this approach, taking into consideration global market dynamics and operational limitations, including the maintenance work on Dubai Airport's southern runway. Through the year, we will continue to keep a close watch on global markets and will maintain our flexibility to optimise the usage of our aircraft assets," said Sir Tim Clark, president of Emirates airline.

By Waheed Abbas

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