Despite already being the world’s biggest A380 customer, Emirates is looking at ways to accommodate an extra 30 Airbuses, taking its fleet of the world’s biggest passenger planes to 120.
Emirates president Tim Clark said the company was studying “ways and means” to bring the extra planes in, but face problems in the shape of curfews at destination airports and lack of space at the carrier’s Dubai base.
“We know what we want to do, we know where we could put more than 90 A380s today,” said Clark. “It’s a question of can we actually fit them in?”
Clark added that Emirates is considering A380 flights to Houston, Los Angeles and San Francisco, saying “the economics of Houston are very powerful. That would be an extremely attractive proposition”.
The news comes as the City of London Corporation claims Dubai is rapidly challenging London as the world’s biggest global hub. Dubai Airports has invested $7.9b to expand capacity, and it expects to handle 75 million passengers by 2015, rising to 98 million by 2020.
Earlier this year Dubai opened Terminal 3, a new concourse designed to handle the A380 aircraft, featuring 20 gates, four of which are currently operational.
Saj Ahmad, chief analyst at StrategicAero Research, says: “Emirates has capitalised on its Dubai base with the A380 to increase capacity on lucrative markets like London and New York where slots can be an issue, so it’s not really a surprise that they want more A380s.
“The problem is gate space at Dubai International Airport. The opening later this year of the new Al Maktoum International Airport will provide new capacity, but it’s not clear whether Emirates plans to split or shift operations, if at all.”
Airbus, based in Toulouse in France, has improved the superjumbo’s performance by adding refinement such as a more aerodynamic wing profile, but there are still some issues surrounding wing cracks.
Ahmad adds: “While Airbus has improved the A380 performance, the company has become unstuck with the wing crack issue, leading to significant down time for repairs, damaging Emirates’ capability to grow.
“The real question is whether any new A380 order means these will be used to replace early models. By the time the 90th A380 arrives into Emirates’ fleet, the earliest models will be over a decade old and will be far less efficient.”
Emirates has taken steps towards increased efficiency by introducing measures such as curtailing water usage.
Clark says: “Only about 60 percent of the water carried on A380s is actually used, and shrinking the tank could save four tons in weight.”