Emirates 'positive' on 2020 outlook after year of 'recalibration', departing president says

The Dubai-based airline conducted a strategic rethink of its fleet and network in 2019 after Airbus cancels A380 programme

Emirates unveils its Expo 2020 Dubai pavilion. Courtesy Emirates
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Emirates, the world's biggest long-haul airline, has a "positive" outlook for 2020 after conducting a strategic review of its fleet and network this year following the demise of the Airbus A380 programme.

The Dubai-based carrier is bullish about next year as it focuses on strengthening its performance across operational, commercial and customer experience metrics, Emirates said in a statement on Tuesday.

"This was a year of recalibration in terms of our fleet and network plans, when it became clear that the A380 programme will cease," Tim Clark, the airline's soon-to-be-retiring president, said. "Emirates’ dynamic approach to capacity deployment — during the southern runway renovation at Dubai International [Airport], as well as in response to the capricious forces of politics and socio-economics throughout the year — demonstrated our agility and yielded results."

The airline's strategic rethink this year resulted in an overhaul of its fleet to embrace smaller, wide-body jets amid a backdrop of slower travel demand and sluggish economic growth. This culminated in a series of restructured deals at the Dubai Airshow in November that included the midsized Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A350 jets, charting a new strategy for growth for the company.

The airline's optimistic outlook for next year comes as Dubai prepares to host the six month-long Expo 2020 world fair in October.

"In 2020, we’ll continue to leverage our partnerships to provide even more connectivity and value for our customers," Mr Clark said. "And we look forward to welcoming the world to Dubai for Expo 2020, where we will showcase the future of aviation at the Emirates Pavilion.”

In 2019, Emirates capped the year by carrying about 58 million passengers on its fleet of Airbus A380 and Boeing 777 aircraft.

Emirates operated over 3,500 flights on average per week, or over 186,000 flights in 2019, travelling more than 885 million kilometres around the globe, it said. The distance is the equivalent of more than 2,300 trips to the moon and back.

The carrier added three new passenger routes to its network of 159 destinations in 2019: Dubai to Bangkok via Phnom Penh that opened a new connection between Cambodia and Thailand, a non-stop service to the Portuguese city of Porto, and a new service to Mexico City via Barcelona.

It ended 2019 with 26 codeshare partners and 156 interline partners in 200 countries. New partnerships forged in 2019 include agreements with China Southern Airlines, Africa World Airlines, LATAM Airlines, SpiceJet and Interjet.


Airbus A380 though the years


The airline strengthened its ties with low-cost sister carrier Flydubai. Together, they carried more than six million passengers on their joint networks to and through Dubai since 2017.

At the Dubai Airshow, Emirates placed an order for 50 Airbus A350-900 aircraft and confirmed a full purchase agreement for 30 Boeing 787-9 aircraft. The "investment in its future fleet will expand its operational flexibility in terms of capacity and range, and allow it to further develop its network proposition beyond 2020", Emirates said.

Last week, Emirates confirmed that Mr Clark, 70, will retire from his position in June 2020 after a 35-year tenure at the airline, but will continue as an adviser. The airline did not reveal plans to find or appoint a successor.