ABU DHABI // Emirates continued a voracious buying spree of large aircraft today when it ordered another 60 wide-bodied aeroplanes from Airbus - worth US$11.8 billion (Dh43.31bn) at list prices - at a ceremony in Hamburg where it took delivery of its first A380 Superjumbo jetliner. The airline said it would buy 30 Airbus A330-300s and 30 Airbus A350 XWBs, two mid-sized aircraft that can be used on flights throughout the Gulf as well as on long-haul, transcontinental routes. Once a firm contract is signed for the aeroplanes, Emirates will have an order book of roughly 300 aircraft worth nearly $70bn, representing one of the most aggressive airline expansion campaigns in history. "We remain ambitious and every bit as determined to achieve our long-term goals," said Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the chairman and chief executive of Emirates Group. "The A330-300s and A350 XWBs will enable Emirates to continue its growth using modern fuel-efficient aircraft." The A380 handover ceremony came on a day when Ryanair, one of Europe's biggest and most stable airlines, posted an 85 per cent drop in profits due to increased fuel costs, representing what many observers say is a slow and gradual redistribution of capacity into the Middle East, as European carriers struggle to cope with slowing economic growth. "All of these carriers want to poach traffic from the legacy airlines," said Richard Aboulafia, an analyst with the Teal Group.
Emirates is the largest customer of the A380, and plans to use the aircraft for flights as long as 15 hours to Sydney, London, New York and India. Tim Clark, the chief executive of Emirates, said this week the A380, while still over its original weight specifications, had just come in one tonne lighter than previously thought, giving Emirates hope that it may be able to commercially fly the aeroplane as far as the US West Coast by 2012. With 2,000 Airbus workers in attendance at the Hamburg facility, Emirates officials took the keys to its first of 58 A380s and revealed its interior cabins, which have until now been a closely guarded secret. The airline yesterday trumpeted its "Shower Spa" for first class passengers with two fully equipped bathrooms that include shower facilities. It also revealed a lounge for premium passengers complete with social area and bar, located at the front of the upper deck. The new aircraft also features mood lighting and more vertical side walls, which give the impression of more space. Emirates's growth has bucked international trends, with many airlines in Europe, the US and Asia going bankrupt or posting huge losses this year due to record oil prices and a slowing global economy. By contrast, Emirates has strengthened its position by taking market share from European and Asian long-haul carriers. Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways have also ordered hundreds of aircraft in a bid to make the Gulf into an aviation hub for travel between Asia and Europe.
Earlier this month, Etihad Airways made a firm order of 100 aircraft from Boeing and Airbus and took options on another 105 in a deal worth up to $43bn, while Emirates and Qatar Airways both made multibillion-dollar orders at the Dubai Air Show last November. The immense orders have been crucial to the world's two largest airline manufacturers, Airbus and Boeing, as well as engine makers GE and Rolls-Royce at a time when a traditional mainstay of new orders - American carriers - has subsided greatly. @email:firstname.lastname@example.org