Emirates to Idle 10% of Jets as Dubai Runway Revamp Cuts Flights

Emirates, the biggest international airline by passenger traffic, will idle 10 percent of its fleet for almost three months, crimping sales, as runway repairs curtail capacity at its Dubai International hub.

The largest operator of Boeing Co. 777 long-range jets and Airbus Group NV A380 superjumbos will ground 18 to 20 planes, President Tim Clark said in Dubai. Fleet expansion won’t be affected, with Emirates still looking to add 22 jets this year.

Growth at Emirates fueled a 15 percent jump in passenger numbers to more than 66 million at Dubai International last year as takeoffs and landings rose 7.5 percent. The airport is upgrading terminals and runways to boost capacity to 90 million.

The disruption “has an impact on revenue and we have to manage that,” Clark said the 2014 United Arab Emirates Government Summit. “We will try to fit all that revenue on the remaining services.”

Emirates will substitute larger planes for smaller ones to minimize the operational impact, and plans to maintain all routes while paring some frequencies, he said.

The runway upgrade is scheduled to take place during the annual May lull and the Muslim festival of Ramadan, during which fewer people travel and which falls mostly in July this year, Clark said. Operations should return to normal by August, when travel should increase with the Eid holiday, he said.

Dubai Airports Chief Executive Officer Paul Griffiths said Nov. 19 that some flights would probably be displaced to the sheikdom’s emerging Al Maktoum hub during the runway upgrade.

The new facility, still in the early stages of expansion, has been designed to handle 150 million people and with a potential capacity for 200 million.

The operational disruption at Dubai International comes as Emirates contends with high fuel costs, though Clark said earnings are still advancing according to plan.

“Our income continues to grow extensively,” he said, without giving details.

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