The new Dubai World Central Airport (DWC) would allow Emirates Airline to operate 200 Airbus A380s – twice as many as it has today, the carrier’s president said Friday.

Speaking to ATW in Hamburg on the sidelines of ceremonies for the delivery of Emirates’ 100th A380, Tim Clark said the new airport will have 100 gates capable of handling very large aircraft (VLA) like the A380 and Boeing 747-8i, which would “easily” facilitate the operation of 200 A380s.

DWC is being built in phases, with completion not expected before 2023. Emirates, meanwhile, still has 42 more A380s on order beyond the 100 it now has in its fleet. In theory, therefore, Emirates could be looking to order at least another 50 A380s if it wanted to fully utilize those VLA gates at DWC.

But Emirates has been pushing for a re-engined, more fuel efficient version of the A380 – a neo variant – which Airbus has so far been reluctant to launch because it cannot secure enough customers. In June, Airbus unveiled a development study for a so-called A380plus package, which would include new winglets and refinements to the wing’s aerodynamics to improve fuel-burn by 4%, and potentially have more than 80 additional seats. The proposal falls short of a re-engined aircraft, but Clark said at the Paris Air Show in June that he might be interested in the A380plus if more airlines signed up so the aircraft’s future was assured.

Speaking at the Hamburg event, Airbus CEO Tom Enders said there was still “huge potential” for A380 upgrades.

The three major Gulf carriers--Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways--all operate the A380 and have used them to facilitate rapid growth. But 2017 has been a tough year for the Middle East airlines, with lower oil prices spurring greater competition, political upheavals in the region that include the Qatar blockade by its neighboring countries, and the effects of US travel bans and extra security rules that particularly affected Muslim countries. The airlines cut back on some services to the US because of reduced demand.

But Clark said in Hamburg Nov. 3 that business was much improved. Fuel prices have risen a little and demand was returning on US routes, he said.  “Green shoots are coming up in all those areas where we had struggling a little bit,” he said.

 

Kurt Hofmann, hofmann.aviation@netway.at