Emirates Riding Growth Surge Sees Airline Able to Double in Size

Emirates, already channeling a significant proportion of long-haul airline passengers via Dubai, could “easily” double in size with enough airport capacity to support such an expansion, President Tim Clark said.

The No. 1 carrier by international traffic sees its fleet of about 230 planes increasing to between 280 and 300 by 2025 and up to 600 in later years, Clark said at the International Air Transport Association’s annual meeting in Miami Tuesday.

Major growth is tied to the new Al Maktoum Airport at the Dubai World Central complex, where capacity is due to reach 120 million passengers by the middle of next decade. Further work may take that to 240 million, providing the infrastructure for Emirates to capture an even bigger slice of flights between the Americas and Europe and Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

“There’s nothing to stop us doubling the size of the airline once we get Dubai World Central,” Clark said. “We have cities, towns, provinces all over the world not served by Emirates and not meaningfully served by other mainline carriers. One hundred of those we have on our radar now.”

Emirates already operates the world’s biggest fleet of Airbus Group SE A380 superjumbos and Boeing Co. 777s. The carrier has 140 double-deckers on order and has specified a hike in capacity to carry more people, with 15 planes to have 615 seats apiece. Clark declined to say where the aircraft will be deployed, beyond Copenhagen, as previously announced.

U.S. Spat

Passenger numbers at Emirates jumped 11 percent to 49.3 million in the year ended March 31, all of them transported on international routes, with full-year profit surging 34 percent to 5.5 billion dirhams ($1.5 billion). The carrier is also a leading cargo operator with 14 dedicated wide-body freighters.

Clark’s growth program to date has already been sufficient to rattle long-established operators in Europe and the U.S., which have said that it and Gulf peers Qatar Airways Ltd. and Etihad Airways PJSC have benefited from improper aid.

Emirates will file a formal response to claims by U.S. airlines that it used state subsidies to gain a competitive advantage “in the near future,” Clark said. American Airlines Group Inc., Delta Air Lines Inc. and United Continental Holdings Inc. all ignored protocols on resolving disputes in going direct to the Obama administration with their complaints, he said.

The carriers “legally have no right” to seek talks between the U.S. and the governments of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates over the aid allegations, Clark said.

“We will show there are no subsidies and there never have been,” he said. All three Gulf carriers have denied the claims.

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