30 more A380s needed for new routes: Emirates chief

Emirates, the world’s biggest airline by international traffic, said it’s studying “ways and means” to accommodate an order for 30 more Airbus SAS A380 superjumbos.

Curfews at destination airports and a lack of space at the carrier’s Dubai base are the main constraints on lifting an existing order for 90 of the world’s biggest passenger planes to 120, president Tim Clark said Monday in an interview.

Emirates, the biggest A380 customer, has exploited the Gulf’s position at the heart of intercontinental flight paths to build a hub served by waves of departures, stripping traffic away from older network carriers in Europe and Asia. Clark said he’s mulling superjumbo flights to locations including Houston, Los Angeles and San Francisco as in-service enhancements to a model introduced in 2007 bring the cities within range.

“We know what we want to do, we know where we could put more than 90 A380s Monday,” the executive said by telephone from Dubai. “It’s a question of can we actually fit them in? The economics of Houston are very powerful. That would be an extremely attractive proposition.”

Airbus has boosted the superjumbo’s performance by adding refinements such as a more aerodynamic wing profile. Emirates A380s flying Monday are already 3 or 4 tons lighter than when the carrier took its first planes, and other improvements from the Toulouse, France-based manufacturer are likely once fixes for wing cracks have been fully introduced, Clark said.

Emirates has meanwhile driven efficiencies via measures of its own such as curtailing water usage, Clark said. Only about 60 percent of the water carried on its A380s – which feature onboard showers – is actually used, and shrinking the tank could save 4 tons in weight.

Emirates added 15 destinations last year, including Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Barcelona and Seattle. The carrier also introduced a fifth daily A380 flight to London on Dec. 10, and has already this year announced extra superjumbo flights to New York John F. Kennedy and Paris Charles de Gaulle airports.

Adding long-haul routes can quickly “gobble up” new planes, Clark said, with a single daily frequency to Houston requiring two-and-a-half aircraft, making additional orders desirable.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 08, 2013, on page 6.




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