Fleet deliveries spur Emirates to diversify into new routes

Published March 5th, 2012 - 11:01 GMT
Shaikh Ahmad Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of Dubai Civil Aviation and Chairman, told Gulf News that the airline’s commercial division was evaluating all its popular routes
Shaikh Ahmad Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of Dubai Civil Aviation and Chairman, told Gulf News that the airline’s commercial division was evaluating all its popular routes

Seattle Emirates will increase frequencies on many of its global routes and is considering introducing a new Australian destination. Shaikh Ahmad Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of Dubai Civil Aviation and Chairman and CEO of Emirates airline and Group, told Gulf News that the airline’s commercial division was evaluating all its popular routes.

“You will see the frequency increasing in some flights from once to twice or even more daily; there will be new points in South and North America, Europe and China while in Australia there is a big chance of introducing a new destination,” Shaikh Ahmad said. Speaking in Seattle, Shaikh Ahmad confirmed that Emirates began its fuel surcharge — confirmed last week in the face of rising oil prices — from March 1. Defending the move, he said he “cannot run a losing business at the end of the day.” The surcharge could run as high as Dh610 on all business class tickets to the Americas and Dh500 for other international circuits, with increases in economy class as well.

Losses despite surcharge

The fuel surcharge issue has become a contentious one for Emirates. Tim Clark, Emirates president, told Dow Jones in an interview that the airline could take a $1.6 billion hit (Dh5.88 billion) this year to cope with the high fuel prices despite levying fuel charges. “We tried not to do it (but) you cannot afford to go out of business,” Shaikh Ahmad said, pointing out that the carbon tax costs will be the next challenge before the industry. “Everybody has to pay. That’s the norm for flying over Europe, failing which they will not be allowed to use the airspace.”

The last couple of days saw the airline being a talking point in this Pacific North-West city, first for launching its non-stop flight to Seattle and then receiving the 1,000th Boeing 777 on Friday.

A pending order for 93 more 777s is due over the next eight years, and Emirates is also going ahead with the scheduled delivery of Airbus A380s. Asked what the utilisation plan for such a huge fleet would be, Shaikh Ahmad said: “Since we have bought the planes, we also know where they will fly. Obviously, we are not going to speak about it too early as we don’t want to give a heads-up to our competitors way in advance.”

Hangar space for fleet

According to a recent estimate, Emirates will start receiving at least three planes a month this year and doubts had been raised whether there was enough hangar space for them.

Asked about it, Shaikh Ahmad said: “Concourse 3 should open by the first quarter of next year and that itself can accommodate up to 20 Airbus 380s. The plan by 2020, however, is to finish Terminal 4, following which all the international carriers will be moved there while terminals 1-3 will be devoted to us.”

On the growing number of competitors in the region — including Qatar Airways and Etihad — Shaikh Ahmad said: “I always believe that competition will be there, but what can you do about it? The way I see it, Qatar and Etihad are now complementing what we are doing for the whole region.

“At the end of the day, we look at the numbers to see whether our seat factor dropped and the answer is no,” he said. “In the UAE itself, you now have Air Arabia, flydubai and RAK Airways. There could be more airlines from Saudi Arabia as well. That’s life for you,” he said.


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