Flying high

Emirates continues to be the leading airline in the region, reports JONNA SIMON

With $30 billion worth of aircraft on order, Emirates not only continues to be the leading airline in the region but, according to a recent research published by the UBS Bank, is likely to become the “Airline of the Earth” in the next decade.

In this independent report, UBS Bank highlights the fact that Emirates has ordered 45 A380 super jumbos, almost three times as many as the next largest Airbus customer for this double-decker.
As HH Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, group chairman at Emirates, said: “The A380 is an ambitious aircraft that meets our growth strategy. Every single one of the A380 we have ordered has been carefully planned for and supports present and future network needs. It will play a significant part in our expansion in a way that no other aircraft could.”
He added: “By 2012, our current 73-strong fleet will more than double in size, while enabling us to carry a lot more than twice the number of passengers because the average size of the aircraft will be substantially bigger. We will be able to offer more seats in ever greater comfort, without depending so much on frequency increases.”
He concluded: “The A380 will give us some of the lowest seat costs in the industry. It is an essential solution at slot-constrained airports. It will be an impressive people carrier, while offering more, not less, passenger comfort and amenities. We are striving to make the flying experience enjoyable again and the A380 will be a great tool in support for this goal.”
The success of Emirates, which has made a profit for the past 19 years and is now the third most profitable carrier in the world, has highlighted the quality of aviation in the Arab world once considered the bottom of the Premier League.
In fact, Emirates has encouraged the start-up of three new Gulf airlines – Qatar Airways, Etihad Airlines and Air Arabia – two of which have ordered similar aircraft to Emirates and almost mirror the early days of the Dubai-based airline.
The Gulf, therefore, becomes a unique centre of world aviation with probably more airports and more airlines than any other such region, size- and population-wise, on the globe.
Today, Emirates has a fleet of 73 wide-bodied aircraft and a network of 78 destinations. Not only is it the biggest vendor of the A380, but from mid-March starts receiving the first of 27 Boeing 777-300ER making it one of the largest operators of 777s.
By late 2007, Emirates will have a total of 51 Boeing 777s with a list price of $105 billion. By 2012, Emirates will then have had the delivery of 100 more aircraft than today.
Such is the rapid development of the airline, keeping abreast of the dramatic development of Dubai itself that a new terminal is being built at Dubai International Airport specially designed to cater for the new A380s.
It will be the only terminal in the world with own concourses, specifically built to cater for 28 A380s with double-tier boarding at one time. The $4.5 billion expansion to the current airport is expected to be completed by October 2006, coinciding with the delivery of Emirates’ first A380.
By the time the present two concourses now under construction are completed, Dubai International Airport will be able to accommodate 70 million passengers per year, which will make it one of the largest airports in the world.
But this will not be large enough for the goals of Dubai and, starting this month, the Dubai Government is building a new airport at Jebel Ali, on the outskirts of Dubai, which it is understood, will initially be used by cargo airlines, but charter and some scheduled airlines are expected to use this “over-flow” facility as well.
Since it was inaugurates in 1985, Emirates has won more than 250 international awards for its service in the air and on the ground it was the first airline, in 1992, to introduce personal , in-seat movies in all three classes.
An indicator that Emirates has no intention of losing its market leadership comes with the announcement that it has committed to a $1 billion agreement with Matsushita for the state-of the-art eX2 in-flight entertainment system for the A380s.
Also revealed is the fact that the First Class on Emirates A380s will have mini-suites similar to those now flying on the A340-500s. The A340-500s, which have the longest range of any aircraft in the world, have enabled Emirates to start non-stop services to Sydney, Melbourne and New York.
Emirates remains a travel-agent oriented airline – the travel agent community still represents the largest and most important distribution channel for Emirates. Although online booking is offered in 30 countries, Emirates has also built websites designed to assist travel agents in selling Emirates products and services. The airline’s frequent-flyer programme, Skywards, last year reached one million members.
On the cargo-side, Emirates SkyCargo operates four Boeing 747-400Fs and two Boeing 747-200Fs, all wet-leased from Atlas Air and with the cargo carried by passenger aircraft contributes 20 per cent of the company’s total revenue.
Emirates has made a name for itself in the sporting world by sponsoring major events such as the Dubai World Cup horse race and the Melbourne Cup.
In the soccer world, Emirates is in the last season of a shirt sponsorship with Chelsea and has signed a GBP 100 million deal to name Arsenal’s new stadium and an eight-year shirt sponsorship from next year. In 2006, emirates will also be the official carrier for the FIFA World Cup.