Too fast?

Can Emirates Airline really grow as quickly as it wants to? Seemingly, no airshow is complete these days without a major order from the Middle East. At Dubai 2005, it was Emirates’s turn, with a US $9.7 billion deal for 42 GE-powered 777s and 20 options. The latest order now means that the airline has no less than 131 widebody aircraft on order, including its 45 A380s. However, can the airline really scale up its operations quickly enough to support this flood of deliveries?

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By  Neil Denslow Published  December 1, 2005

|~||~||~|Seemingly, no airshow is complete these days without a major order from the Middle East. At Dubai 2005, it was Emirates’s turn, with a US $9.7 billion deal for 42 GE-powered 777s and 20 options. The latest order now means that the airline has no less than 131 widebody aircraft on order, including its 45 A380s. However, can the airline really scale up its operations quickly enough to support this flood of deliveries? So far, of course, the airline has managed to be both fast growing and successful. Its latest half-year figures, for instance, which ran up to September, show a profit of $251 million, a 7% rise on the same period in 2004. However, the carrier is now facing a host of challenges to maintain this profitability. Some of these are inhouse, for instance, including hiring enough staff, particularly pilots, and maintaining high customer service levels. This has already proved a problem for Emirates, with a number of managers being re-assigned. The carrier also needs to develop the necessary infrastructure for its fleet, including a maintenance centre, training facilities and a new HQ. All of these projects are currently underway, but construction in Dubai has a strong tendency to run late and it is hard to believe that Emirates will be immune to this. Terminal 3 at the airport has also suffered delays, which could create capacity problems as the Emirates fleet comes in. The airline will also soon face the tricky task of splitting its operations between two airports, as the new Jebel Ali airport comes online. Emirates is also facing growing competition, particularly from within the region, as other airlines looks to catch up with its ambitions. The 777 order will give EK an edge here, as it will put the carrier back in the global spotlight. This will help when trying to attract customers and staff; however, if the carrier does not live up to its promises both groups may look elsewhere instead.||**||

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