Photographer: Natalie Naccache/Bloomberg

Emirates Grounds 20 Planes as Spring Exacerbates Ramadan Slump

Emirates grounded 20 aircraft during Ramadan as the Islamic month’s timing this year exacerbated a seasonal slump in demand from Persian Gulf passengers and business travelers from outside the region, according to airline company President Tim Clark.

The planes will start returning to service following the month-end Eid al Fitr holiday in about two weeks, with the fleet reaching peak capacity by September or October, Clark told reporters in Sydney at the International Air Transport Association’s annual meeting. The aircraft are a mix of Boeing Co. 777s and superjumbo Airbus SE A380s, according to a spokeswoman, with the double-deckers due to resume flying first.

“Demand for travel is down significantly in the Muslim world,” with Ramadan’s start coinciding in 2018 with the generally weaker period of May, Clark said Monday. He added that traffic had fallen 50 percent from a month earlier. “It’s not exactly easy” doing business during that time, he said.

Emirates is the world’s biggest international airline, flying more than 265 planes from its Dubai base that includes the largest fleets of 777s and A380s. While Clark expressed concern in April that a shortfall of flight-deck crews would hamper growth plans, he said Monday that
found a solution to pilot availability, with crew levels reaching normal by this winter.

Other comments to reporters from Clark:

  • Emirates will introduce premium-economy seating on its new A380s and 777s, and will retrofit the class in some superjumbos already in service
  • Offering to encompass 6%-8% of capacity
  • “We’re going to recognize that premium economy is something that is here to stay” in the industry, and Emirates has “noticed much more leakage out of our mainstream passenger demand into carriers that have it”
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