Key takeaways from Aviation Business' conversation with Emirates Chairman Sheikh Ahmed

Emirates' chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al Maktoum spoke at length about lease agreements, multiple economy sections, mergers and partnerships, as well as Dubai's grand aviation plan
Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, president of Dubai Civil Aviation, chief executive of the Emirates Group and chairman of the Economic Development Committee in Dubai.
Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, president of Dubai Civil Aviation, chief executive of the Emirates Group and chairman of the Economic Development Committee in Dubai.

Lease agreements for the A380 expire in 2020, but the airline has many options if it decides not to renew them, Emirates Chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al Maktoum told Aviation Business in Hamburg yesterday.

A few of the airlines are owned by Emirates Export Credit, he added and there could be a startup or low cost market the airline would be willing to explore, but has no confirmed plans about yet.

New premium economy cabin options might be revealed very soon, according to Sheikh Ahmed, adding to Sir Tim Clark's statements at latest Aviation Festival where he said 11 abreast could be an option for the carrier, despite previously saying he wasn't interested in them.

Having multiple economy sections on an A380 won't diminish the airine's prestige either, said Sheikh Ahmed.

In the meantime, first class continues to perform well for Emirates, according to Sheikh Ahmed, despite the carrier recently opting for two cabin configurations on some routes to Gatwick this winter. Emirates will exhibit its new first class cabins at the Dubai Airshow.

There is absolutely no hint of a merger with Etihad, confirmed Sheikh Ahmed. "We can cooperate in many other ways, including fuel purchases, parts and so on."

Meanwhile, the Flydubai partnership is aimed at improving results by shedding some routes to either carrier and bringing in more flexibility. There is no merger here either, he added. "The owner will be one, with different entities under it. The first 29 codeshares have been announced, and there are more to come, possibly at the airshow."

In terms of negotiations with Airbus about orders, Emirates does "not necessarily" feel the need to live up to any expectations of announcing big orders at the Airshow.

Emirates is also so far satisfied with Airbus delivery rates. But it has 42 aircraft left to be received.

Airbus has been plagued by not being able to deliver some of its other aircraft to customers on time and aims to cut A380 production to eight per year over the next few years.

If it were to bring production down to 8 a year from 2018, it would only be able to make 24 A380s by the end of 2020. Which is why Emirates might be stressing on the need to receive its 42 remaining A380s on time.

Finally, with Dubai aiming to increase aviation's share of its GDP to about 50%, and DWC planning to grow capacity to 240 million: Dubai is betting big on the Expo 2020 and what can happen after with the facilites located closely to Jebel Ali Freezone and the Logistics hub.

"It's an area we are developing a lot," says Sheikh Ahmed. "The first PTB facility at Al Maktoum International will open next year, giving a lot of flexibility to airlines. Flydubai is being looked at in particular to move to the airport soon." 

Sheikh Ahmed is playing his cards close to his chest with how the grand aviation ambition will come to pass. "Sometimes you see things that couldn't be done in a particular and much bigger way until later. We won't be able to tell you exactly what we are doing just yet. This is a very competitive market and there are things in the pipeline that will be revealed as they happen," he said.

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