Emirates expects continued growth in next six months, despite geopolitical challenges

Dubai-based airline anticipates only a 'small effect' to its business from the Israel-Gaza war

Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed, chairman and chief executive of Emirates Airline and Group, speaks at a media roundtable during the 2023 Dubai Airshow. Leslie Pableo / The National
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Emirates, the world's biggest long-haul airline, expects continued growth in the next six months of its current fiscal year despite geopolitical challenges, according to its chairman.

The airline is recording only a minimal effect from the Israel-Gaza war, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed, chairman and chief executive of Emirates Airline and Group, said at Dubai Airshow on Tuesday.

"When it comes to whether it will really affect the business we are in today, we see there is a small effect and we hope that it will not continue and they will be able to find a way to solve this issue," he said.

"We did so good in the first six months [of the financial year] and we anticipate that the next six months should be also a good number."

However, he acknowledged other pressures on performance including higher fuel prices.

The airline last week said it was "keeping a close watch" on headwinds such as rising fuel prices, the strengthening US dollar, inflationary costs and geopolitics, after posting a record first-half profit.

Its profit jumped to Dh9.4 billion ($2.6 billion) in the April to September period, up 135 per cent from the same period last year.

Emirates' sister airline flydubai is similarly registering a minimal impact from the war, airline chief executive Ghaith Al Ghaith said on Tuesday at a press briefing during the Dubai Airshow.

However, the carrier has a diverse route network and is optimistic about the busy winter season and mega-events taking place in the UAE, he said.

Emirates' wide-body orders

On Monday, Emirates ordered an additional 55 Boeing 777X-9 and 35 Boeing 777X-8, backing the long-delayed 777X wide-body programme, as it maps out the future of its wide-body fleet once its Airbus A380s are gradually phased out. The plane is no longer in production and Emirates is currently rebuilding, with new orders for a post-A380 fleet.

"Is there another choice?" Sheikh Ahmed said of the 777X selection.

Emirates' Airbus A380 super-jumbos will remain in the fleet until the mid-2030s to 2040.

"The A380s, as everybody knows, is at the end of the programme," he said. "What we have today, it will take us that far and that's it. But what's available today in the market is the 777 or the A350.

"So we hope that somebody else will come up with something which is different, who will it be? Is it the Brazilians? Or the Canadians? Who else?" he said, referring to plane makers Embraer and Bombardier.

Asked if he had received guarantees from Boeing for receiving the 777X deliveries starting in 2025, Sheikh Ahmed said Emirates was "taking those dates very seriously" and pushing for that time frame.

Sheikh Ahmed also said the airline would not be buying more of its flagship A350-1000 from Airbus until issues with the Rolls-Royce engine had been addressed.

"When we feel that we have a good deal, we will sign," he said.

The airline requires specific guarantees from engine-maker Rolls-Royce on the performance of the engine that powers the A350s.

"I need guarantees on when, at what price and the maintenance cost per hour. That would solve it," he said.

Emirates already has an existing order for 50 units of the smaller A350-900 wide-body model. The first delivery is expected next summer.

Updated: November 15, 2023, 1:13 AM