Bolstered by its Qantas partnership and an ever-expanding international network, Emirates expects to see more sunny skies in 2016 – along with the launch of new A380 first class suites and Boeing 777 business class seats.
“We’ve been in Australia since 1996 and gone from 3-4 flights a week to 77 flights per week, so every year has been a bumper year,” says Barry Brown, Emirates’ Divisional Vice President Australasia.
The Gulf powerhouse ranks as Australia’s strongest international airline, carrying 9.7% of overseas travellers ahead of 8.7% on Singapore Airlines – with that margin increasing over the past two years.
(Qantas, which is now past the mid-point in its five-year alliance with Emirates, remains in the lead with a 15.4% share of international traffic.)
Headroom for growth
“2015 was extremely good for us, with new aircraft and new routes” Brown says, although there are no plans to boost flights into Australia for the coming year.
“We have additional rights in our back pocket so we will add capacity when the time is right, but there’s nothing on the drawing board.”
March will see Emirates launch its sixth Airbus A380 service to Australia, upgrading the daily Melbourne-Singapore-Dubai flight from a Boeing 777-300ER to a superjumbo.
This follows the A380’s debut in Perth, although Emirates later cut one of the two non-A380 flights to balance capacity.
Barcelona, Dublin popular
The superjumbo will also appear on Emirates’ routes to Birmingham in March and Prague in May, with a second superjumbo to Barcelona as of June.
“Barcelona was an instant success when we added that to our network,” Brown relates.
“People can visit the southern areas of Europe which haven’t been that accessible unless the past without flying back from a traditional gateway like London.”
Also very popular with Australian travellers is Dublin, which Brown laughingly describes as “our Ned Kelly route,” while Stockholm and Amsterdam are other surprisingly strong drawcard among Emirates’ 38 European destinations.
Brown expects that the expanding network will continue to drive that growth, with 16 Boeing 777s and 20 A380s being delivered across the UAE financial year of April 2016-March 2017.
“We are retiring 26 of the older aircraft, so the net result is 11 new aircraft coming into the fleet.”
New A380 first class, Boeing 777 business class
In the next few months Emirates is expected to reveal a new first class “private bedroom” for the Airbus A380 to compete against the impressive Apartment suites and Residence VIP ‘penthouse’ of Etihad Airways.
Tim Clark, President and CEO of Emirates, has said the “new bedroom concept will take [privacy] to the next level.”
"We’re talking fully enclosed rooms, with all the touches and amenities that you’d expect in hotel or a private bedroom on a luxury yacht, room service and so on.”
2016 could also see the launch of new Boeing 777 business class seats, replacing Emirates' current angled beds and their 2-3-2 layout with a fully-flat design offering direct aisle access to every passenger.
Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT