As Emirates reevaluates its long-term growth goals, it is examining new Fifth Freedom routes to the USA and life without the A380 superjumbo jet.
Speaking at the 2019 Arabian Travel Market, Emirates’ President Sir Tim Clark said his carrier has had a lot of time for introspection in recent months.
We haven’t been growing at the pace we used to because of geopolitical issues in the region and elsewhere. But that’s given us time to take stock of what the network is going to look like in five to ten years, and what the fleet fit in that network and the type of aircraft is going to be.
In February, Emirates announced plans to buy 70 A330neo and A350 aircraft while slashing its outstanding A380 order from 53 planes to 14. That’s no problem for Dubai’s spacious new Dubai World Central (Al Maktoum International Airport – DWC), but it does create a problem at slot-controlled airports like London where Emirates will be unable to increase frequencies to compensate for the smaller jets.
New Fifth Freedom Flights?
Clark is not oblivious to the fact that Fifth Freedom routes on Gulf Carriers are currently a fraught political issue in the USA. Nevertheless, the gentlemen’s agreement between the U.S. and Gulf Carriers last year does not technically prohibit carriers like Emirates from starting new flights between, for example, the USA and Europe that will continue on to Dubai.
While any new route would be “under the microscope” of regulators and U.S. interest groups, Clark added “the temptation is to do more” is there. He added that Emirates’ flights between New York JFK and Milan and between Newark and Athens have performed very well.
Adjusting to a world without A380s is a particular challenge for Emirates, which has built its longhaul strategy around the superjumbo jet. Nevertheless, Emirates is wise to start thinking now about its post-A380 roadmap. Furthermore, its hints at new Fifth Freedom service to the USA may simply be a test to gauge reaction from U.S. regulators.