The year of the A380


Bouyant at a time when many other airlines have a gloomy outlook, Emirates Airline’s president Tim Clark speaks to TTN’s Jonna Simon about developments

Emirates has had many landmark years. How would you describe this year?

On a positive side, I would say that this is the year of Emirates’ A380. We took delivery in July of the first of our 58 ordered A380s in Hamburg and a few days later, the aircraft was flying on its inaugural service to New York.

This is also the year of the environment for us, as I appointed a senior vice president in charge of environment to ensure that we made our contribution to enhance the eco-friendliness of the emirate of Dubai.

Regarding the A380, we realise we have a huge responsibility towards the environment and that drives us to introduce new and more fuel efficient aircraft like the A380. On the negative side, this is a year of dramatic increases in jet fuel costs. At one time, oil had reached $145 a barrel and has already resulted in many airlines going bankrupt.

Fortunately, we have been able to weather the storm.

What affect will the newly opened Terminal 3 at Dubai International Airport have on your passengers and the future of Emirates?

The present airport is literally bursting at the seams. It was originally designed for a maximum of 17 million passengers and this financial year alone Emirates exceeds 25 million people.

Therefore the opening of Terminal 3 was necessary for the growth of Dubai as a global hub and for Emirates’ to continue its development. Only the space restrictions at the airport limit the number of aircraft we can have in our fleet. At present we operate a fleet of 111 aircraft and have orders for 182 more and after that we will have to wait until we move to the new Al Maktoum International Airport at Jebel Ali, before we can add more’ planes.

You state that Dubai International Airport will become a global hub - is this a major objective for Emirates?

Since we started the airline in 1985, it has always been our raison d’être to support the development of Dubai into a tourist and commercial centre as well as help to build the airport into a major hub and now a global hub.

Flying in millions of passengers every year to Dubai, on business and leisure, we have also made substantial contributions to the Emirate of Dubai’s revenue. In addition, the Emirates Group also made a direct contribution of $6 billion and an indirect contribution of $7 billion to Dubai’s overall revenue.

We have also opened a new training centre. We now have three training facilities, which has enabled us to create an aviation industry in Dubai churning out aircraft engineers, mechanics, air traffic control staff as well as having a huge simulator centre for the continued flight training of our flight deck crew.

Emirates is in a leading role in commercial aviation having won more than 400 awards - what lies ahead for you?

When you are a market leader, your innovations are always being copied. For example, the Emirates private suites in first class have been imitated by several international airlines. Although this is frustrating, we have to accept that this is the highest form of flattery and we continued by launching a new initiative like our showers on the A380. I suppose the biggest challenge we have now and in the future is to maintain the quality of our service, which has put us where we are today.

As we grow bigger, we must always retain the present Emirates style of increasing passengers from more than a hundred destinations to make our airline their first choice.

It is also a challenge to recruit the type of professionals, who can continue the success story, which has been built up over the past 23 years. Training will of course playa major role in this respect.

Despite the rise in fuel prices, will you continue to expand the network of the airline?

Oh yes, definitely, we have nearly $50 billion aircrafts on order with one or sometimes two aircraft being delivered every month for the next five to six years. All these aircrafts have a specific role to play in our future fleet and that will also include the opening of new destinations.

What will these new destinations be?

We have not announced any specific new destinations yet, but I can confirm that we will be expanding our network in North America and in Europe to name just two major markets.

Looking back to the start of the airline, what are the key elements for its success?

For me, I would say Emirates was fortunate to have HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum as the chairman right from the beginning. He has a charismatic personality and his daily interest and support for the airline has been a major part of its success. We were very fortunate to be based in Dubai, which is at the crossroads to the East and to the West and at a time, when the current ruler, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, had decided that it was vital for Dubai to have its own airline.

Couple these two dynamic people with the enthusiasm, loyalty and professionalism of our staff plus the latest technology and equipment and you have the makings of an award winning airline.