Upcoming A380 deliveries will provide Emirates passengers with extra opportunities to fly the superjumbo.
Richard Vaughan, divisional senior vice-president for commercial operations worldwide at Emirates, told Business Traveller that the carrier would take delivery of four more superjumbos in the next couple of months, taking the total A380 fleet to 12. As previously reported on businesstraveller.com, it is boosting A380 services to double-daily to London Heathrow on July 1, daily to Beijing from August 1 and daily to Manchester from September 1. It is also increasing its A380 Jeddah operation to daily on June 1.
Vaughan said the reaction from passengers using the superjumbo had been “outstanding”, citing “the space on board in all three cabins and the quietness and comfort of the aircraft”. Speaking about the new Manchester service, he said: “The demand is there. We’re bringing in a product [first class] that is new for the city, and we think we’ll get huge support from businesses in the north-west.”
Vaughan said take-up for the aircraft at Seoul and Bangkok, where it was introduced last year, had been very good. As to future A380 destinations, he said: “Singapore and Frankfurt will come. The number of aircraft restrict what we can do. For us, apart from the demand from the public for the aircraft, there is also the demand for volume.”
Emirates is currently boosting its European services with a new Amsterdam route starting last week, Prague on July 1 and Madrid on August 1. “They add a lot of attraction to our worldwide network,” Vaughan said, adding that he expected good things from the daily Czech route. “Prague out of the Middle East market will be very strong – I think we’ll see a huge take-up there from the Gulf and the rest of the Middle East, as it’s not very well served from here,” he said.
Vaughan expressed a wish to expand the airline’s German services. It currently operates seven flights a day – double-daily into Frankfurt, Dusseldorf and Munich and daily to Hamburg – but has been thwarted in its attempts to add more. As previously reported, the German government told the airline to raise its fares last year (see online news November 20, 2009). “All the routes are doing very well and we’d like more – we’d like to go to Berlin and Stuttgart,” Vaughan said. “The local authorities in both those cities are very keen for us to come but there’s an airline there [Lufthansa] that’s not too keen on us coming.” However, he expressed hope that the situation would change. “I think the German government have been very fair to us in the past and hopefully they will be in the future,” he said.
There were no plans at this point to restart services to Copenhagen, he said – the airline’s original plans to launch a service in 2006 was abandoned following the furore caused by cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad being published in a Danish newspaper.
Vaughan reported that demand for business and first class was improving following the problems caused by the worldwide financial crisis. “The [recession] was a real problem for us as it was for every other airline around the world but once things settled down we had a pretty good financial year.” He said a “pretty drastic cost-cutting exercise” had helped it to mitigate the effects but said this hadn’t included cuts to its product. All the airline’s B777 fleet was being refurbished, he said.
“Revenue has been pretty strong too,” Vaughan said. “The major hit was in the premium cabins but that’s starting to filter back now. In economy class there was little or no effect.” The strength of Emirates’ transfer traffic will certainly have helped its results, but Vaughan maintained that point-to-point flights had held up. “If you talk to hoteliers in Dubai they’re doing extremely well,” he said.
Vaughan reported that the airline had lost revenue in excess of US$60 million as a result of the volcanic ash cloud but that it had “bounced back strongly”.
Vaughan also discussed the possibility of expanding services to Australia. “We currently operate 70 flights a week and we have permission for 84,” he said. “At the moment there’s nothing specific but we could do another two daily services to Perth, Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane.” None of the other Australian cities stacked up financially at the moment, he said.
Report by Michelle Mannion