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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 19 November 2018

Dubai in talks over India hub at DWC, says Emirates Airline president

The move is part of new growth phase of the Middle Eastern aviation sector which will “almost go nuclear” over the coming decade.
Emirates Airline's inaugural non-stop flight to Boston arrives at Logan International Airport on Monday, March 10. AP Photo / The Boston Globe, Jessica Rinaldi
Emirates Airline's inaugural non-stop flight to Boston arrives at Logan International Airport on Monday, March 10. AP Photo / The Boston Globe, Jessica Rinaldi

Indian carriers are attempting to get around complicated red tape at home by threatening to set up hubs at Dubai’s new Al Maktoum airport at Dubai World Central (DWC), says Tim Clark, the president of Emirates Airline.

“Already the Indian carriers in the latest round of talks expressed an interest in setting up hubs in Dubai,” Mr Clark told reporters in the United States on Tuesday. “Well, we can’t accommodate them in DIA [Dubai International Airport], we said, but you can go to DWC. So imagine an Indian carrier like Indigo or Jet or whatever – 50 aircraft on the ground. They feel so constrained in their own field of operations that they look at somewhere like Dubai which is unconstrained – just don’t break the law and fly safely etc and off you go. And that’s on the table for them.”

Such a move, Mr Clark said, would signal that the Indian carriers perceive better prospects in the fast-growing Middle East aviation market than in their home country.

Speaking at an event to celebrate Emirates’ new route to Boston, Massachusetts, Mr Clark asserted that the Middle East’s aviation sector will “almost go nuclear” over the coming decade.

Saj Ahmad, chief analyst at StrategicAero Research, said a hub in Dubai could alleviate the Indian carriers’ worsening overcapacity. “Indian airlines can’t even make money with the jets they have now – adding new jets just makes it harder and with Indian airport infrastructure barely expanding, they’ll need to place these jets somewhere ... If they reject DWC, then these Indian airlines are in for a world of hurt – as parking airplanes isn’t free either.”

Separately, Boeing said yesterday it won an order for 42 of its 737 Max planes valued at about $4.4 billion from SpiceJet. Air India also said it is reviewing the performance of its Boeing 787 Dreamliner fleet for fuel efficiencies and costs.

Emirates’ own expansion plans in India have been limited by the Indian government’s rules limiting the number of seats airlines can offer in the country.

In January, the Indian aviation authorities agreed to allow the Dubai carriers Emirates and flydubai 11,000 extra seats a year – about a third of the number the two airlines requested.

Mr Clark said that the increase, which was the first since May 2008, was unlikely to result in Emirates opening any new routes into India.

“The Indian government call the shots on how many new destinations we fly to India,” he said. “They’ve given us 11,000 seats for Dubai which of course has to be shared between Emirates and flydubai. We had asked of course for, I think, 30,000 seats, just for a starter and multiple points in India additional to what we have at the moment. But we didn’t get any of those. So we’ll have to carve up the cake the best we can. We’re running at 90 per cent [capacity]. It’s such a pity.”

Instead, Emirates is currently concentrating on rapidly expanding the number of routes the company operates in the United States.

Emirates’ inaugural non-stop flight from Dubai to Boston’s Logan airport landed at 3.15pm local time on Monday as the Dubai flag carrier continues to aggressively expand its network into the US.

The company started the route using a Boeing 777-200 which contains 264 seats. Mr Clark said Emirates had sold all but two of those seats for the first flight to passengers from Dubai and 39 other destinations and was likely to be using the larger A380 planes on the route “within a year”.

“Judging by our forward bookings over the next few months, which are full, it’s one of the routes which has grown so quickly that, give or take a few weeks in May, the summer period is looking particularly strong,” Mr Clark said. “So much so that that little airplane will have to be changed to a bigger airplane fairly soon.

The new route to Boston is the eighth in Emirates’ rapidly expanding list of US destinations. The airline currently runs direct flights between its Dubai hub and Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington.

The company plans to start running daily flights to Chicago on August 5 and has plans to expand its US network further as it attempts to cash in on corporate traffic and to challenge US airlines like American and United.

lbarnard@thenational.ae

with additional reporting by Shereen El Gazzar

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