Unfazed by US curbs, Emirates to press ahead with growth plans

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Unfazed by US curbs, Emirates to press ahead with growth plans

Dubai - Emirates is planning to operate to new destinations, mostly in the Far East and Africa.


Issac John

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Published: Tue 25 Apr 2017, 7:36 PM

Last updated: Tue 25 Apr 2017, 9:40 PM

Emirates airline, one of the fastest growing international carriers, will stay on track with its growth strategies and fleet expansion drive regardless of the recent US travel restrictions that had forced it to cut operations to five North American cities.

Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Emirates airline and group, said the carrier would be exploring new markets for expansion. "We have more than 100 unexplored markets and we will, therefore, be looking at operating to new destinations, mostly in the Far East and Africa."

Speaking to media at the Arabian Travel Market, Sheikh Ahmed said in order offset the business loss after eliminating 25 weekly flights to the US consequent to President Trump's new visa rules and restrictions on electronics devices on flights, the airline would also have in place other contingency plans. He said he was hopeful that the rules would be eased as the affected carriers are in discussions with the US authorities.

"President Trump is a businessman. We hope that things will change as we move forward. I am very optimistic," Sheikh Ahmed said.

Planes on US routes usually fly more than 80 per cent full in the summer season but are now "percentage points" less than that, hurting the flights' profitability, Emirates president Tim Clark said recently. The airliners might be redeployed to markets ranging from countries in the Pacific to Africa and Europe, he said.

Last week, the state-owned carrier outlined plans to scale back capacity as of May on five of the 12 US routes it serves, citing the country's tightening visa restrictions and a ban on carrying personal electronics from some locations, including Emirates' Dubai hub.

Daily flights from Dubai to Fort Lauderdale and Orlando in Florida will be cut to five a week. Flights to Seattle, Boston and Los Angeles will now be once a day, instead of twice daily. Trump signed an executive order in March toughening vetting procedures on citizens of six Muslim-majority countries from entering the US. The order was rejected by American courts, but the administration said it will appeal.

Also in March, the Trump administration banned laptops, tablets or any communication devices larger than a smartphone from being brought into the cabin of planes on direct flights to the US from 10 airports in the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey, including the UAE.

"Over the past three months, we have seen a significant deterioration in the booking profiles on all our US routes, across all travel segments," said Emirates in a statement.

"The recent actions taken by the US government relating to the issuance of entry visas, heightened security vetting and restrictions on electronic devices in aircraft cabins have had a direct impact on consumer interest and demand for air travel into the US," the company added.

Although Emirates is offering its premium travellers laptops on loan, it is not helping.

Following Trump's executive toughening vetting procedures on citizens of six Muslim-majority countries from entering the US, the world's largest long-haul carrier has made the necessary adjustments to its crewing, to comply with the latest requirements.

Sheikh Ahmed said Emirates fleet expansion will continue as planned and it would be receiving 27 new aircraft next year.

The airline has not yet taken a decision on choosing between Airbus 350 and Boeing 787 for its fleet expansion. "We are evaluating and will announce the final decision at the Dubai Airshow."

He said the airline would continue to remain profitable despite such challenging recent developments that have affected summer bookings from western Asia, the Middle East and North Africa across most segments. In May, the airline will announce earnings for the year through March.

On new airline alliances similar to Emirates-Qantas tie-up, Sheikh Ahmed said the carrier has signed new code-share partnerships and expanded on existing ones in key, strategic regions over the past year. "We will continue to look at similar arrangements that benefit our customers."

Sheikh Ahmed ruled out any inorganic growth plans including acquisition or mergers with other carriers. "We will continue to pursue the same growth model we have been following for the past 30 years. It has stood us in good stead."

He said it will take another seven years for Dubai's new airport Al Maktoum International to be fully operational but flydubai would move its entire operations to the new complex by the end of 2017, freeing up space for Emirates to expand at Dubai International.


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