Dubai’s Emirates plans 100 flights a week to Australia

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Emirates Sky Cargo

By Shane McGinley  www.arabianbusiness.com

Dubai flag carrier Emirates Airline hopes to increases its flights to Australia to 100 a week, after seeing a 52 percent rise in profit for the year to $1.5bn.

Emirates Sky CargoThe Arab world’s largest airline currently operates 70 flights a week to Australia but sees opportunity for further expansion, said chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al-Maktoum.

“We are entitled to operate about 85 flights to Australia under the bilateral [agreement]… When we meet that I am sure that we try to bring it to 100,” he said.

Emirates would require permission from Australian travel authorities to increase capacity.

“I hope Australia will not mind because it is good business for both of us,” Sheikh Ahmed said.

Emirates, which saw off surging oil prices and political unrest to post a 25 percent rise in revenues for 2010 of $14.8bn, has drawn fire for its ambitious expansion plans. Rival western carriers claim Gulf airlines use unfair subsidies and state funding to finance aircraft deals and draw long-haul traffic into their hubs.

Canada’s refusal to grant new landing rights to Emirates and Etihad spiralled into a diplomatic row between the two countries last year.

In Germany, national carrier Lufthansa has lobbied its government to deny Emirate’s additional landing slots at Berlin’s new airport, while British Airways has also criticized the Dubai carrier’s expansion plans.

Emirates took delivery of eight new aircraft during the year, including seven of its flagship A380s. The airline has a further $13.4bn worth of aircraft on order and plans to increase its fleet to eventually include 120 A380s superjumbos.

Capacity between the UAE and Australia has surged over the last decade, with Emirates operating just four flights a week to Australia when it launched the route in 1996.

In February Australia’s competition watchdog cleared the way for the country’s no.2 airline Virgin Blue to tie-up with Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways for five years, giving Virgin Blue a firmer footing in its plans to expand on international routes.

Emirates said it carried 31.4 million passengers in 2010 and its passenger load factor stood at 80 percent for the 12 month period.

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