Gulf carrier Emirates said it’s ready to play the long game in seeking to add routes in Germany, one of the few major travel markets that the world’s No. 1 airline by international traffic is struggling to penetrate.
Emirates, which has overcome the modest population of its home base by building Dubai into a long-haul transfer hub, can serve only four German cities under a bilateral air-services accord dating from 1975 that is “maybe a little old,” Chief Commercial Officer Thierry Antinori said yesterday in Frankfurt.
“We will get the traffic rights one day or the other,” Antinori said. “It’s a question of time. We have to respect the rules. Germany is missing an opportunity, it is a pity.”
Emirates’s timetable to Europe’s biggest economy comprises three daily trips to Frankfurt and two apiece to Munich, Hamburg and Dusseldorf, with none to Berlin, the capital. That compares with its network of six U.K. airports and five in Australia, a country with just over one-quarter of Germany’s population.
Since Emirates began flights to Hamburg in 2006, the carrier has added 59 further destinations spanning major markets such as the U.S. and China, as well Italy and smaller economies including Austria and Switzerland, Antinori said.
“The only country we did not open a new destination in was Germany,” he said. “We are not obsessed, we are not angry. We are also very optimistic, because Germany is the most pragmatic country in Europe.”
In order to boost capacity on those German routes it can serve, Emirates today converted one daily Frankfurt flight to operation with an Airbus Group NV A380, the world’s largest passenger plane. The double-decker features 519 seats, adding 165 a day compared with the Boeing Co. 777 used previously.
The switch means that Emirates now serves 30 destinations with the A380, and makes Germany the carrier’s most important market for the model after the U.K., with Munich’s two daily flights already superjumbo-operated.
Emirates has 51 A380s in the fleet, with firm orders for a further 89. It will also start serving Dallas with the plane from October, and San Francisco and Houston starting December.
The airline is ready to order more A380s should Airbus offer a version with more fuel-efficient engines, Antinori said.
The executive added in an interview that Emirates has little interest in the Airbus A330neo, a re-engined version of the wide-body which the manufacturer announced recently would be developed to extend the life of the aging twin-turbine model.
Emirates’s outstanding fleet requirement is for a plane offering 250 to 350 seats, with the upper end of that range beyond the planned capacity of the revamped jetliner.