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Emirates heads east.

EMIRATES AIRWAYS, the Dubai-based carrier calling itself the "International Airline of the United Arab Emirates," has decided to take a number of steps to turn itself into a major global airline. The first phase of that process will be stepping up its services to the Far East. Dubai has traditionally been considered a gateway towards the Orient. Emirates' first two destinations, back in 1985, were Bombay and Karachi.

Since then, Emirates has added New Delhi, Dhaka, Hong Kong, Manila, Bangkok, Colombo, Male, Singapore and Jakarta to its operations. Within a few years, Japan and Australia should also find their way into the airline's Far East network. Much of the expansion will certainly depend on the arrival of new Boeing 777s, not only the original seven ordered for delivery in 1996 - at a price tag of $2bn - but a further seven 777s on option.

The airline is also negotiating with Airbus about the possibility of adding to its fleet of A310s, of which it presently has eight. By the year 2000, Emirates says that its fleet should number at least 30 planes. But even without the new planes (and coming from a company that normally publishes no statistics), Emirates already claims an annual increase in passenger traffic of 25%.

Although no precise information has yet been revealed, the financing of any new acquisitions will probably be handled through the International Emirates Bank. Its president recently signed a $20m eight-year loan with Emirates to finance the acquisition of three flight simulators. The International Emirates Bank had previously financed acquisition by Emirates of two Airbus A300-600 RS delivered in 1989 and 1990.

Emirates has also begun daily flights from Dubai to Hong Kong and Singapore. Projections suggest that the two destinations will be central to a region that is expected to produce the highest growth in air traffic in the coming years.

Emirates is presently negotiating with civil aviation authorities in the Maldives about the possibility of its taking an important stake in the international airline that the country would like to set up.

The company has just established a direct link between Male, the capital of the Maldives, and Singapore, giving it both westward and eastward feeds to and from the Maldives.

"We are providing passengers in Europe and the Far East with the most convenient connections into Male," says Tim Clark, the carrier's commercial director. Nevertheless, it will be Hong Kong which will serve as the centerpiece of Emirates' new Asian network. According to Edwin W.C. Lau, Emirates' area manager for Hong Kong since 1988 and one of the principal architects of the new Asian policy, Emirates' operations in Hong Kong have shown a phenomenal growth in recent years. In the past year alone, passengers flying on Emirates to Hong Kong have increased by almost 50%, he says, while passenger-related revenue over the same period has grown by 55%.

Hong Kong will also be an important transit center for cargo, with freight tonnage having almost doubled in 1993 from 1,609 to 3,107 tonnes. Cargo-related revenue has increased over the period by 92.54%.

Once the new Asian network is in place, says another official at Emirates, it will undoubtedly begin regular runs of its own on to the United States where the airline has just opened new offices. A regional manager and sales forces are now studying the possibility of creating regular destinations within the United States and Canada.

For the moment, however, Emirates says that it is very pleased with its recent alliance with United Airlines. The company's chairman, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al Maktoum, says this "will provide Emirates' passengers with excellent connections to major cities in the United States," a situation which in his eyes "will help boost commerce and tourism between the UAE and the USA." The airlines' two networks, are seen as almost a perfect fit with both carriers serving a number of cities, including Paris, Frankfurt, Rome and Zurich in Europe, and Hong Kong, Manila, Bangkok and Singapore in the Far East.

The alliance, which came into effect at the end of last October with Emirates moving its London service out of Gatwick and into Heathrow, allows Emirates flights to link directly with United's services from Heathrow's Terminal 3 and onto New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle.
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Title Annotation:Emirate Airlines expands service to Far East
Publication:The Middle East
Date:Mar 1, 1994
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