Emirates is considering setting up a more prominent transpacific operation in what would be a slight twist to its business model.

The airline is looking at introducing flights through more intermediate points in Asia to destinations in North America, Emirates Airline President Tim Clark says on the sidelines of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) annual general meeting in Cape Town, South Africa.

Clark declines to say what markets could be involved in the venture, but points out Singapore as one stopping point. The plan would rely on Emirates gaining fifth-freedom rights from the Asian points. Because of the shorter distances involved, the plan does not rely on the availability of longer-range aircraft such as the proposed Boeing 777-8X.

Emirates has previously made a move into long-haul one-stop flying by opening a Dubai-Hamburg-New York route, but pulled out again. “The timing probably was not right,” Clark says. The airline is about to introduce a Milan-New York flight that will be added to one of its Dubai-Milan flights using Boeing 777-30ERs, because of high demand from the North Italian business community and the retrenchment of Alitalia’s long-haul flying out of Milan.

The transpacific operation would complement Emirates’ tie-up with Qantas, which also has significant exposure on the Australia-North America market.

The possible move into more offshore flying would coincide with increased limitations at the Dubai hub. Earlier predictions saw the airport reaching 90 million passengers a year in 2020, but with the Dubai economy and Emirates’ growth picking up quickly, the airport is now expected to reach that target by the end of 2016, or four years earlier than forecast.

According to Clark, it is not market demand that is becoming a limiting factor for Emirates’ growth, but the physical limitations of the Dubai hub. General aviation operations and some cargo flying, including Emirates’ own, are moving to the new Djebel Ali airport and some low cost carriers such as Wizzair are also using the new facility. Clark also hopes that some of the Indian airlines that are not depending on onward connections in Dubai might be willing to move.

In addition to Emirates’ own growth – 18% in April – putting pressure on the airport, Dubai’s low fare airline FlyDubai is also requesting more slots.