Flying up to 15 hours from Dubai? It’s likely you’ll be on Emirates’ new A350 jet

The new wide-body aircraft will be used on routes in the US, Latin America, Australia and New Zealand from mid-2025

Emirates has been assured Airbus that A350 deliveries will be on time, Adnan Kazim, deputy president and chief commercial officer, said. Photo: Emirates
Powered by automated translation

Emirates plans to use its new Airbus A350 jets to serve ultra-long-haul destinations in the US, Latin America, Australia and New Zealand – all up to 15 hours of flying time from Dubai – following the initial launch of the wide-body jets on mainly regional routes.

The first batch of deliveries – with a capacity of 312 seats and expected in August through to mid-2025 – will be used on short to medium-haul routes in the Middle East, the GCC, West Asia and Europe.

The A350 aircraft in the second phase of deliveries will be used on new and existing “midsized” markets with ultra-long haul range such as Adelaide in Australia, Adnan Kazim, deputy president and chief commercial officer of Emirates, told The National.

The move will replace the bigger Boeing 777s and Airbus A380s currently on these routes, freeing them up to serve demand on destinations that require larger capacity.

The A350 has the right size and range to meet demand on those routes, Mr Kazim said, adding that its fuel efficiency and capacity “will help us really get the optimal fit in the ultra-long haul domain because the demand is not yet fit for the 777-ERs or a bigger gauge”.

“[These routes] fit quite well for medium-size aircraft and you don't have first-class demand, so it fits well because the A350 is [configured for] Business, Premium Economy and Economy class. It gives you the right economics,” he said.

Emirates has 65 Airbus A350-900 aircraft on order that will be delivered starting in August and through to the next three and half years. The aircraft type can accommodate 300-350 passengers in a standard three-class configuration, and flies efficiently on everything from short-range segments to ultra-long-range routes of up to 18,000km non-stop.

The first of these will enter service on September 15 and its first destination will be Bahrain, Emirates said last week. With 10 new A350s expected to join the Emirates fleet by the end of March 2025, the airline plans to operate its latest aircraft model on nine regional destinations in the coming months.

Emirates will operate its A350 jets to Kuwait, from September 16, and to Muscat from December 1.

Scotland's capital city, Edinburgh, is returning to the Emirates network with the launch of the A350, with flights starting from November 4.

Other European destinations set to welcome the wide-body this year include Bologna and Lyon. In West Asia, Emirates will launch A350 flights to Mumbai and Ahmedabad in October, and to Sri Lanka's Colombo in January.

“All these kinds of places will give you that required fit between the demand and the capacity and the aircraft efficiency that brings in route profitability,” Mr Kazim said.

Emirates is introducing the three-class A350 aircraft model for the first time to its fleet. The airline is currently the biggest operator of Boeing 777 wide-bodies and Airbus A380 double-deckers globally.

'Confident' about consumer demand

Emirates is “confident” about robust passenger demand to fill its A350s on the announced routes, Mr Kazim said.

The smaller capacity of the A350, compared to the bigger aircraft deployed on these routes, makes it “easier” to meet the market demand on these existing markets, he said.

“They are all being deployed into mature markets,” he said. “We're quite confident that the consumer will be well-receiving it, in terms of the product and in terms of the efficiency.”

On-time deliveries

Emirates has received assurances that Airbus will deliver its A350 aircraft on time in August, amid industry concerns about delayed jet handovers by plane makers.

“We have got already the confirmation from the manufacturer that there won't be any delay ... we're getting them on time and no disruption is coming,” Mr Kazim said.

“That gave us comfort to announce the routes with a firm timeline. We need to look at the two manufacturers as strategic partners. You need to live with them and work with them.”

However, he acknowledged the challenges of dealing with Airbus and Boeing's duopoly in aircraft manufacturing.

“Yes we're frustrated, we're not getting the right traction sometimes from some of them but that's the engagement that we have to go through. There is dependency and they are the only two manufacturers to deliver aircraft,” he said.

Emirates is “doing a lot of work” and “tweaking” its seat capacity to “minimise the impact on our business model” through its aircraft retrofit programme that will keep older jets in service for longer, he said.

The cabin upgrades come as Airbus has stopped making the A380 superjumbos and as Boeing lags years behind in the debut of its new 777X wide-bodies that Emirates has on order.

Emirates Airline's chairman, Flydubai's chief executive and Etihad Airways' boss last week all voiced their concerns about the delays during the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai.

More A380s in the skies

Emirates currently has 88 of its Airbus A380s in the sky, out of a fleet of 116 superjumbos. The remaining A380s are either in heavy maintenance checks after being grounded during Covid-19 or undergoing the retrofitting before being returned to service.

“As we progress towards the end of the [current] financial year, the number of A380s will increase to 95 aircraft actively up in the sky,” Mr Kazim said. The airline's financial year begins on April 1.

The airline is inching closer to operating its full fleet of 116 double-deckers during its next financial year that begins in April 2025.

“We're gradually getting close to almost full deployment of the A380s ... we're hoping by the next financial year to be in full deployment of the A380s,” Mr Kazim said.

Emirates is investing in the retrofit of its A380s to keep them as part of the core fleet up until 2037, he said.

The airline is working closely with its suppliers to secure the necessary parts for the A380s to remain in operation and has a “stable” supply chain, Mr Kazim said.

Airline industry chiefs globally have voiced concerns about a shortage in aircraft and engine spare parts as the aerospace industry grapples with supply chain problems since the pandemic started.

Troubled US plane maker Boeing in the past week has faced a spate of problems with its aircraft, with the most recent incidents in Turkey and Senegal.

Last Thursday, a Boeing 737-300 skidded off a runway in Senegal, leading to 11 injuries, including four that were serious.

That followed an incident on Wednesday in Istanbul in which a Boeing 767 cargo plane belonging to FedEx landed on its nose after its front landing gear failed.

Updated: May 15, 2024, 4:49 AM