Emirates says eyeing changes amid 'gathering storm'

Airline president warns that it must adapt to weaker markets, rise of low-cost long haul rivals

Emirates, the world's largest long-haul airline, is stripping out costs from its business as it adapts to weaker markets and a stronger dollar and the rise of low-cost long-haul rivals, the carrier's president said on Thursday.

Changing economic conditions are forcing state-backed Gulf airlines, who have moved into many foreign markets from Asia to South America in recent years, to revise their business models and slow their once rampant growth in capacity.

"We are subject to market changes like everybody else is," President Tim Clark told journalists in Berlin on the sidelines of the ITB travel fair.

One of the changes is the rise of lower-cost long-haul travel, he said, describing it as a "gathering storm".

Norwegian Air Shuttle is putting pressure on established transatlantic carriers with its expansion using longer-range single-aisle aircraft to fly between smaller, cheaper local airports, while flag carriers like Lufthansa , Air France and British Airways-owned IAG are all working on low-cost long-haul projects.

"The way people travel, their decisions for travelling, the amount of money they're prepared to pay, new entrants coming to market, long-range single aisles, it's all changing," Clark said.

More carriers are looking at using new, more efficient longer-range single-aisle planes for routes where they can be cheaper to operate while being easier to fill than widebody planes, whereas Emirates has an exclusively wide-body fleet.

Clark, who has been with Emirates since 1985, said he couldn't see that changing, but added: "Maybe others coming behind me will take a different view."

He declined to provide details or say when any new strategy would be announced but said job cuts were "not in our nature." "It's not a revolution, it's an adjustment," he added.

Emirates said in January a thousand staff had left the company in the previous three months "largely through natural attrition."

"We are attending to the business in terms of examining, streamlining and stripping out costs," Clark said, adding that Emirates is one of the "lowest cost operators in the international market."

A potential order for Boeing 787 or Airbus A350 jets that Emirates has long been debating, is part of the ongoing reassessment, he said.

A decision on whether to introduce a premium economy class had also not yet been taken. "I can't at this moment say premium economy is the right way to go," he said, adding that Emirates wanted to be sure it wouldn't lose business class passengers to premium economy.

That seemed to contradict comments he made in December that premium economy would be rolled out "within the next year to 18 months."

The Dubai-based carrier has previously said it's looking for ways to boost ancillary revenue including introducing fees to pre-select economy seats and allowing passengers to buy entry to its lounges.

Meanwhile, he said that Emirates did not want to speed up deliveries of its final 25 Airbus A380s, due from 2021, because it doesn't have the space to deploy them at Dubai airport.

Emirates saw profits drop 75 percent in the first half of its current financial year and Clark said the year had been "tough." Yield decline remains an issue, but the decline has not worsened, he said.

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Posted by: OmarF

I used to always fly emirates. (alone)
but when you have to purchase tickets for a group family.
then no way I will ever choose them. very expensive. Also sometimes you feel if you are in economy the cabin crew don't treat you well. (unlike other airlines)

Posted by: Telcoguy

Emirates is reasonably priced when neither origin nor destination is Dubai. When it needs to compete with QA or Etihad it does.
But when you need to fly to/from Dubai is substantially more expensive, but then again this is the case with QA and most airlines with this model.
I have not used Emirates to fly to/from Dubai in many many years, as I rather have a 2 hours longer flight and save $1,000-$1,500, and yet I maintain gold with them. Not that is worth a lot.

The biggest issue I see is that their business class product is lacking when compared to QA, and QA works for my Oneworld status (that is much more useful to me) I am not sure about the impact of opening the lounges to all passengers either. Business class one is usually quite crowded

But I agree if you are based in Dubai and want to avoid a stop over in Doha it can be very, very expensive.

Posted by: dxb_yvr

sorry made a mistake - Even when emirates is on sale it costs more than other airlines' regular pricing.

Posted by: dxb_yvr

Dear Mr. Clark, dont worry about losing business class passengers to premium economy.

In a time when;

- many Dubai companies are instructing staff that they cant fly emirates anymore (regardless of class).
- people like myself who are regular business class fliers, and were SKYWARDS Gold members for years, have outright stopped flying with emirates due to the high cost in comparison to others.
- regular premium economy flyers who always choose another airline over emirates.

Emirates needs to seriously look at their pricing. At any time of year I can fly with another airline for almost half the cost. When emirates has sales, the pricing becomes the same as others.

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