Published on January 1st, 2017 | by Jim Lee


2016 was another year of growth and service enhancements at Emirates

2016 was another year of growth at Emirates, underlined by fleet and network expansion, as well as customer focused product investments.

Commenting on 2016, Sir Tim Clark, President Emirates Airline said: “Consumer appetite for travel has remained resilient, despite socio-economic and political headwinds around the globe, and that is reflected in our operational growth. Emirates will continue on our strategy of organic growth, leveraging on the geo-centricity of the UAE, and Dubai’s dynamic developments in tourism and commerce. We will also continue to invest in our product and services so as to offer our customers an outstanding experience and value proposition while they discover the world.”

Those “socio-economic and political headwinds around the globe,” are affecting all gulf carriers and not just Emirates, who have seen capacity growth on European routes at their lowest level in more than a decade. Indeed Emirates planned increase in its European is just 3.2% for the first quarter, down from 11.6% previously. There are even suggestions that the airline is even considering reducing capacity on European routes to meet expected demand.

Emirates Boeing 777-300 on departure

Gulf Airlines led by Emirates, have seen seat capacity on European routes increase nearly six-fold over the past 12 years, as the region became an important transit point, between east and west. Weaker European economies, a slump in the oil industry and deepening concerns about terrorism in Europe, as well as political uncertainties, have depressed demand.

A particular concern has been falling numbers of Asian visitors to Europe and Chinese tour groups in particular, have largely ceased visiting Europe following the wave of bombings and shootings across Europe, according to Mr Clark. A widely publicised axe attack in July on Hong Kong travellers in Wuerzburg, Germany, may have been a factor that has further affected the market and led to Asian travellers shifting to destinations such as Taiwan, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand, This resulted in them bypassing the airline’s hub at Dubai.

“They travel en masse, 100, 200, 300,” Mr. Clark said in an interview recently. “When Ankara happened, when Paris happened, when Nice happened, they stopped. Not into a trickle – they stopped entirely.”

Emirates is still the best performer in terms of European passengers and it hopes to maintain this position by having a young fleet, an expanded network footprint and continued customer experience investments, which will lead to increased brand appeal and continued growth.

For example, overall capacity during the first six months of its 2016-17 financial year (April to September), increased 9% to 30.2 billion Available Tonne Kilometres (ATKM). Capacity measured in Available Seat Kilometres (ASKM), grew by 12%, whilst passenger traffic carried measured in Revenue Passenger Kilometres (RPKM) was up 8%, although average Passenger Seat Factor dropped to 75.3%, compared to 78.3% in the same period the previous year.

Emirates carried 28 million passengers between 1st April and 30th September 2016, up 9% from the same period last year. The volume of cargo uplifted remained stable at 1.3 million tonnes, a solid performance in a challenging air freight market.

Finally, and with a note of caution, Emirates net profit in the six months was AED 786 million (€203.46 million), down 75%, following one of the airline’s best half-year performances during the same period last year.

All Airbus A380 and Boeing 777 fleet with an average age of five years

Keeping its fleet young not only minimises Emirates’ overall carbon footprint, but it also enables the airline to put the latest products and services on-board its aircraft. In November Emirates became the only airline to operate an all Airbus A380 and Boeing 777 fleet, with the phase out of its Airbus A330-243 fleet. A6-EAK was the last of the 13 of type operated and it made its final revenue flight on 29th October. The airline also phased out its 16 strong Airbus A340 fleet.

In addition to retiring the 29 older aircraft, Emirates added 36 new aircraft, consisting of 20 A380s, 16 Boeing 777-300ERs. The airline therefore ended the year with 255 aircraft in service, with an average age of five years, significantly below the industry average of over 11 years.

In April, Emirates placed an order for two additional A380 aircraft, taking its total A380 order book to 142, cementing its position as the world’s largest operator of this aircraft type. It also has a total of 50 Rolls-Royce-powered A380-800s on order, having previously opted for the Engine Alliance GP7200, but performance issues with the Trent 900 engines has meant that there have been delays in deliveries. For Rolls-Royce however, the engine order, signed in 2015, was the largest in company’s history, amounting to $9.2 billion (around €9.2 billion).

The delay was a serious embarrassment for Rolls-Royce, who had missed a revised handover date of 16th December for the first aircraft, but was able to “come to an agreement” with the airline regarding compensation and the technical issue regarding the Trent engines. A spokesperson for Emirates confirming the delivery of the first aircraft, A6-EUM (c/n 225) on 28th December, added that two more, A6-EUN (226) and A6-EUO (c/n 227) were delivered the following day.

Earlier, on 27th December Airbus Industrie announced that following “an agreement reached between Emirates and Rolls-Royce and a consecutive agreement between Emirates Airline and Airbus, the Toulouse based aircraft manufacturer is to adapt the A380 delivery stream with six aircraft deliveries postponed from 2017 to 2018 and six others from 2018 to 2019”. The manufacturer re-confirmed the target to deliver around 12 A380s per year from 2018 as announced earlier in July 2016. It added that “further fixed cost reduction initiatives will be accelerated so the impact on break-even in 2017 is minimal”.

However, these newest generation Airbus A380 and Boeing 777-300ER aircraft being delivered, provide improved passenger appeal. The new Airbus A380 for example, has several notable new features, including an enhanced seat configuration in Economy Class, and a higher ceiling in the Business Class Cabin, for a more spacious feel, while the new Boeing 777-300ERs delivered from November, also features the airline’s new Business Class seat.

Amongst the most recognisable features of the new seat is the pitch of 72 inches (1,829 mm) that can be moved into a fully flat 180 degree sleeping position, a personal mini-bar, as well as one of the industry’s largest personal TV screens at 23 inches (584 mm), with the ability to stream personal mobile content. You can get a preview here.

Expanded network

Emirates also expanded its A380 network to 44 destinations with added seven new passenger and one cargo destination in 2016, rounding off the year with 154 destinations in its global network. Today it operates the longest A380 service in the world from Dubai to Auckland, and also the world’s shortest A380 service to Doha.

Emirates operate the Dubai-Dublin route at a twice daily frequency, with Boeing 777-300ERs, with a mid-morning and an early evening arrival in Dublin. The EK161 departs Dubai at 07:00 and arrives in Dublin at 11:20. It returns to Dubai at 12:55, as the EK162, arriving in Dubai at 00:25. There is a -4 hour time difference between the airports, and flight time varies between 7:50 and 8:20, for the 3,675 mile (5,914 km) journey.

The second flight, the EK163, departs Dubai at 14:35 00 and arrives in Dublin at 18:55. It returns to Dubai at 20:50, as the EK164, arriving in Dubai at 08:15, the following morning. These timings are effective 26th December, through to 25th March 2017.

Customer experience investments

In addition to the enhanced Business Class seat on its Boeing 777 aircraft, referred to above, which takes comfort and design to new heights; Emirates continued to strengthen its in-flight entertainment (IFE) offering. Customers on all Emirates flights can now access on-demand entertainment with up to 2,600 channels of movies, music, TV shows, games and more, to choose from. In October, Emirates signed an agreement with Thales to equip its Boeing 777X fleet with the Thales AVANT in-flight entertainment system, debuting in mid-2020.

Reflecting the increasingly connected digital lifestyle, over 8.8 million Emirates passengers connected to Wi-Fi on board in 2016. In addition, more than 400,000 phone calls were made in-flight, and 1.7 million sms messages were transmitted by passengers.

For its premium passengers, Emirates rolled out a range of enhancements on board with luxury in mind. New additions in First Class included the world’s first moisturising lounge wear designed for an airline, keeping skin hydrated during the flight. New blankets were introduced including plush faux sheep-skin blankets for First Class and soft duvets for Business Class passengers.

Emirates also partnered with VOYA luxury spa products for its passengers to enjoy in its signature shower spa, dedicated lounge bathrooms and First and Business Class washrooms. In addition, Emirates and luxury Italian brand Bvlgari redesigned the airline’s exclusive amenity kit bags by giving them a sleek, modern look. So far in 2016, 2.75 million First and Business Class amenity kits have been distributed on Emirates flights.

Focusing on seasonal and regional flavours, Emirates also unveiled a new Japanese menu for First Class and Business Class passengers during the year. For the festive season, a special menu was introduced across all classes to capture the flavours of the holidays.

In Economy Class, Emirates launched the world’s first interactive amenity kit to provide a more comfortable travel experience. The stylish new amenity kits utilised augmented reality (AR) technology to unlock immersive content on mobile devices. Young travellers continued to be delighted with the second range of on board toys, and more than 3 million toys have been distributed so far this year.

On the ground, investments continued in upgrading the lounge experience. Emirates this year completed a €10.45 million refurbishment of its Business Class lounge at Concourse B in Dubai, which now includes a barista experience, a health hub with Voss water, and an exclusive Moët & Chandon champagne lounge. The airline also extended its dedicated lounge network with the opening of its lounge in Cape Town.

Emirates also began offering customers greater flexibility to check in for their flights by extending check-in in times from 24 hours to 48 hours.

Building on the strength of its loyalty programmes, the airline’s frequent flyer programme Emirates Skywards marked a milestone of 16 million members by launching Cash+Miles. The innovative flight redemption programme allowed members to redeem a combination of cash and Skywards Miles on any Emirates flight, reducing the cost of tickets and making any seat available for members. The airline also revamped its corporate loyalty programme, Emirates Business Rewards, delivering a more competitive and easier redemption process for flights as well as upgrades at any time for businesses.

Brand appeal

Emirates was named World’s Best Airline 2016 at the Skytrax World Airline Awards, and in the past year, the airline continued to work hard to deliver memorable experiences for its customers and with its significant investment in the series of product developments and service enhancements, both in the air and on the ground (referred to above), which have significantly enhanced its brand appeal.

Emirates Skytrax awards

Emirates topped The Brand Finance Global 500 report as the world’s most valuable airline brand in 2016, with the airline’s brand value growing more than 17% to $7.7 billion (around €7.32 billion). Throughout 2016, Emirates continued to use sports, musical and cultural events as a platform to engage with its customers and fans.

In January, Emirates teamed up with Boeing to sponsor ‘View from Above’, one of the largest aerial filming projects ever conducted using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as drones. Filming was conducted by 13 drone pilots in 18 destinations on five continents including Ireland, and the airlines home base in Dubai, capturing never before seen footage of popular destinations.

In February, Emirates made its first foray into Major League Baseball as the Official Airline sponsor of the Los Angeles Dodgers. A few months later, Emirates Cabin Crew shared a fun safety-inspired demonstration with the help of Dodger legend Orel Herscheiser.

In April, the airline celebrated the spirit of cricket with a witty, Bollywood inspired ‘Welcome onboard’ demo at the ICC World Twenty20 Final between England and West Indies, entertaining a packed stadium of 66,000 fans.

In October, Emirates returned with Hollywood actress, director and producer Jennifer Aniston for another fun global advertising campaign that showcased the iconic Emirates A380.

In a joint effort to promote reading and literacy, Emirates partnered with Google in an initiative called ‘Celebrating Arabic Reading’. This initiative aimed to reach millions of smartphone users and make Arabic books more accessible with unprecedented discounts of up to 90% on online books at the Google Play Books store in 9 countries in the Middle East, and support the UAE’s Year of Reading. So far, the initiative has reached over 120 million people in the region.

In November, Emirates teamed up with Dubai Miracle Garden to construct the world’s largest floral installation through a life-size version of the Emirates A380, covered in more than 500,000 fresh flowers and living plants. Over 200 people worked for 180 days to build, layer and mount the foliage on the 30 tonne steel structure. The aircraft structure even includes moving engine fans and other key design features that capture the essence of the original aircraft design.

So after a year of highlights fleet and product enhancements, Emirates can look forward to a further successful year in 2017. In fact the year has already got off to a good start with close on 250,000 passengers expected to pass through Emirates’ Concourses and Terminal 3, in the first three days of the year, according to the airline’s booking figures, with the busiest day being 2nd January, when a record of over 87,000 passengers will pass through Terminal 3.


About the Author

Jim has had a life-long interest in military matters and aviation. Initially, he fused both of these interests together with a passion for military aviation, initially as a photographer. He has travelled extensively over the years and has been the guest of many European air forces, plus the air forces of the United States, Russia and others throughout the world. His first introduction to journalism coincided with an interest in the civil aviation industry was when he initially wrote for and later edited, ‘Aviation Ireland’, the club magazine of the Aviation Society of Ireland. Jim was a contributor to Flying in Ireland since its inception over 10 years ago and is now a key contributor to this site. He has also contributed items for a number of other aviation magazines and has produced a number of detailed contributions to Government policy documents, most recently the Irish Government’s White Paper on Defence. He is also deeply involved in the local community and voluntary sector and has worked both in local government and central government.

Comments are closed.

Back to Top ↑