Temporary capacity restrictions at its Dubai hub will force Emirates to park 20 aircraft for 80 days this summer, a move which will curb the airline’s expansion to a significant extent.
One of the airport’s two parallel runway will be out of service for much needed resurfacing work that limits the amount of movements possible during the period.
Emirates Chief Commercial Officer Thierry Antinori says the airline will ground mainlyand as well as some , but not .
The airline’s biggest aircraft are undergoing the wing modification program needed to fit the permanent fix to wing rib feet and ribs avoiding future cracking. That measure, too, takes several aircraft out of service at any given time.
Antinori told Aviation Week on the sidelines of the ITB tourism fair in Berlin that the airline will continue to serve all of its current destinations during the period of almost three months.
While Antinori still expects around 10% growth in the financial year 2014 (starting on April 1), that is well below the 13% or so it would have reached without the additional limitations. That compares with 35% growth over the past two years and the introduction of 20 new destinations.
The runway shutdown is not the only operational and commercial challenge Emirates is facing at the moment. While Antinori says the latest alliance withis working well, he points out that some of its competitors are “not always rational,” citing “big capacity increases, fares dropping and some overcapacity.”
He did not explicitly say which carriers he meant, but it is clear that the comments are mainly geared towardsand , both of which have put more capacity into the Australian market. But Australia still offers “some of the most profitable routes” for Emirates, he said. Elsewhere, Emirates faces the weakness of some of the currencies in emerging markets such as the Indian Rupiah.
Nevertheless Emirates plans to introduce five to eight more cities. Since January, Emirates has started flying to Boston, Taipeh and Kiev, that is followed by Kanu and Abuja as well as Chicago soon.
Emirates currently operates 45 A380s, having ordered a total of 140. 13 more are to be phased in between now and April 2015, the 50th aircraft is planned to arrive in May 2014.
“The load factor is 2-3% higher than the rest of the fleet and the yield is better,” Antinori says. Airbus likes to explain the yield effect by passengers being prepared more to fly the A380, but in the Emirates case it is more linked to the fact that the aircraft is equipped with relatively large first class and business class cabins, seating 14 and 76 passengers respectively that is shifting the mix in favor of premium travel.
Unlike many other carriers, Emirates has no plans to give up first class, although it does operate two-class aircraft and is considering to introduce two class A380s that would seat around 650 passengers for some medium- to longhaul and lower yield markets.
“We will stick with first, we need it,” Antinori says.
He points at some very longhaul flights like Los Angeles (more than 15 hours), but also the cabin’s function as an upgrade option for frequent business travelers and brand promoter.
Emirates conversely has no plans to introduce a premium economy cabin that many of its rivals offer—most lately. “Our economy is already premium,” Antinori quips. The decision to go to an eleven-abreast configuration on the A380s is still under consideration but not yet made, he says.
Antinori insists that the airline’s inflight product is not as heterogeneous “as some think”—Emirates has been operating several different business class versions across the various fleet types. But he argues that things are improving—the A340-500s will exit the fleet soon and the four remaining A340-300s are operating mainly India and short-haul services within the Gulf and Middle East region.
Emirates has also pulled its A330s, formerly the workhorse for its European network, from that market and only uses them for Kiev, Warsaw and Larnaca. Instead, the remaining fleet of 21 aircraft is now mainly deployed within the Gulf region, to the Levante and Africa.
Emirates has begun to retire the fleet, too, having operated 29 A330-200s at one stage, but has kept them much longer than originally planned because of delivery delays for other programs (mainly A380 and). Nevertheless, average aircraft size has crept up significantly from 300 passengers only a few years ago. It is now at 400 seats, reflecting the introduction of a large A380 and 777 fleet.