By Jimoh Babatunde with Agency reports
Emirates plans to fly to more places and order more planes, ignoring claims of unfair competition from rivals, the airline’s chairman said on Tuesday.
The airline’s aggressive expansion has been criticised by European carriers who say the Dubai-based company and other Gulf carriers are effectively subsidised, provoking fears that Gulf-based superjumbos will draw traffic from their hubs.
Emirates, which is state-owned, will soon fly to “several hundred destinations” from 111 locations now, Emirates’ Chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al-Maktoum said after the airline reported a 52-percent jump in 2010 profits.
“I’m sure this will make a lot of people unhappy but the market is there to grow. Airlines in Europe don’t want to see us there because we are giving them competition. But we get good market share because of the product,” he said.
“We have big plans. We will operate more to North and South America and also Asia,” he added.
Sheikh Ahmed indicated that Emirates would announce new aircraft orders at the Dubai Airshow in November.
Dubai has led the charge in a war of words between North American and European carriers and their Gulf rivals over subsidies, export credits and landing rights, blaming their woes on “parasitic” taxes.
“If they spend as much time running their business as they do trying to run us down they might make even more money,” Emirates president Tim Clark said last year.
The UAE failed to gain greater access for Emirates and Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways in Canada last year, leading to tension between the two countries.
Meanwhile, Lufthansa has asked that Emirates be denied landing slots at Berlin’s new airport.
Emirates is the largest customer for the Airbus A380 superjumbo and has so far ordered 90 of the aircraft. It plans to increase its fleet to eventually include 120 A380s, from the 15 it currently flies.
That could turn the European aviation market upside down.
“If Emirates continue to execute as they have done they will force a restructuring of the industry simply by deploying the 90 or so A380s they have on order or in service,” Sudeep Ghai, a partner at London-based Athena Aviation, said.
“Expect other markets to start making even more protectionist noises than they have been in defence of their local carriers.