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Emirates President Vows to Keep Buying Aircraft

Nov. 18, 2013
"We seem to be managing to fill the airplanes," said Emirates Airline's president Tim Clark, despite the carriers in the market expanding passenger capacity enormously over the years.

DUBAI - Emirates Airline's appetite for aircraft purchases will not cease, the airline's president Tim Clark said Monday, a day after the Dubai-based carrier ordered 200 planes from Boeing and Airbus.

The Middle East's largest airline keeps expanding to meet the ambitions of Dubai which aspires to cement its status as a major travel hub, he said.

"I don't think Emirates is going to stop with this order," he said, referring to purchases announced at Dubai Airshow Sunday.

These included a commitment to buy 150 Boeing (IW 500/14) 777X long-range airliners and a firm order for 50 Airbus (IW 1000/52) A380 superjumbos.

The order from Boeing is valued at $55.6 billion, excluding engines, while the purchase from its European rival Airbus amounts to $20 billion at list price.

"The intention of the government of Dubai is to build the new airfield here on this site" at Al-Maktoum International Airport which opened for passenger operations last month.

Dubai has in the past announced ambitions to turn Al-Maktoum into the world's largest aviation hub once completed, with five runways and a capacity to handle 160 million passengers annually.

"They're hoping to get that in the state of readiness for 2020 to 2022, and the scale of that will allow us to grow our fleet further," said Clark.

"When we have more firm time lines on that, we will be revisiting our fleet plans and routes structures."

But he said the fast-expanding carrier would continue to operate at one of Dubai's airports, not both.

Dubai International is already one of the world's busiest hubs for international travel, handling nearly 58 million passengers last year.

Clark said the carrier's commitment to buy 150 Boeing aircraft would be finalized before the end of 2013.

Triple Seven Contract 'Very Shortly'

"The contract will be finalized by the end of December, so six weeks away... What we did was sign a commitment letter which will lead to a contract very shortly," he said.

Emirates was in discussions for four to five years with Boeing over the new Triple Seven airliner scheduled to enter service around 2020.

"In the last months we've got it where we wanted it to be," said Clark. "Basically the terms are agreed with Boeing."

Business at the biennial Dubai Airshow got off to a bright start.

Sunday's opening day saw orders from the big three Gulf carriers -- Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways -- for Boeing and Airbus planes hitting $141.5 billion, excluding the price of engines.

Clark said that the bulk of the Emirates order is aimed at replacing aircraft retiring by the end of the decade, when the 777X begins to enter service.

"Although it looks a large number on paper, the reality is that the capacity that is being phased out... the new aircraft are coming in to replace it," he said.

"We keep our aircraft for 12 years," he added.

Asked if there was enough room in the market for all three main Gulf carriers to expand, Clark sounded upbeat.

"Every time the three companies ordered more aircraft, everybody asked is there enough to go round," he said.

"We seem to be managing to fill the airplanes," he said, despite the carriers expanding passenger capacity enormously over the years.

"We are optimistic that there will be enough room," Clark said.

"We see growth in Europe already and many markets that didn't actually get affected by the (global financial) crisis at all," he said.

Emirates is the largest single operator of Boeing 777s and Airbus A380 double-deckers, flying to 137 destinations.

Clark said Emirates continues to make "incursions" into new markets despite some governments hesitating to grant wider traffic rights.

Ali Khalil, AFP

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2013

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