Why Emirates is spending $2 billion on its A380s and dreaming of a new jumbo

The Dubai-based airline has never abandoned the mythical Airbus plane and is looking to make it more attractive through a new Premium Economy class.

Once stored in airline hangars due to unprofitability, the A380 – which has not been manufactured by Airbus for three years – is now fighting back to support the strong recovery in world air travel.

The largest plane in the world flies with Qatar Airways, ANA, British Airways, could find the sky with Lufthansa… and has never taken a break with Emirates, the first and largest user of the device. 70 of its 118 units are currently in operation, a number that will increase to 80 by the end of the year and 118 next summer. Or the entire company’s fleet.

And Emirates is still spending lavishly to modernize it. It is investing $2 billion to equip it with its new Premium Economy class, ready to accommodate 56 passengers. That may not seem like much, on an aircraft that can exceed 600 seats in the longest-haul configurations. But Emirates is betting heavily on this new category of traveller.

Business classes with competitors “not up to standard”

“It is not an upgraded Eco class”, explains BFM Business Cédric Renard, general manager France of Emirates.

“Located on the upper deck of the A380, it contains all the codes of Business Class such as reception, catering and entertainment,” he continues. We are convinced of the relevance of this proposal, which is marketed 10 to 15% more expensive than Eco. grade”.

The manager believes that this new class will overshadow competitors’ business classes “which are not up to standard”. A way of saying that some Business classes are less exclusive than this Economy Premium. “Our belief is that it is Eco customers who want to have fun, it is this customer base that we are targeting”. Deployed on 3 aircraft in the fleet, this new class is receiving “very good feedback”, assures GD.

Business travelers could also see it as an alternative, especially as the company notes “a very strong recovery of this clientele in the Gulf region and from the Emirates to Europe and the US”.

“The A380 is profitable”

In short, the A380 still has a bright future ahead of it at Emirates because the company – through its clientele, its positioning and the interconnectors it offers – from Dubai can make it a profitable aircraft.

And this despite a very high operating cost, especially in terms of fuel. “We have to make the relationship between the number of transported passengers and petroleum”, argues Cédric Renard, who specifies that the company has “covered” itself in fuel, which allows the moment to escape from the sky-high costs. “It’s a separate product that’s profitable,” says the manager.

This does not prevent the company from working on “cleaner” flights, with the sector aiming for CO2 neutrality by 2050. “We will facilitate a 100% SAF aircraft (clean, agricultural or organic fuel) at the end of We have been involved in this process since 2017, but there is a need to have a sector”, recalls the manager.

Large carriers remain at the heart of the company’s strategy, while its competitors are all betting on smaller aircraft at once. If the A380s are no longer produced, the company has ordered no less than 50 A350s from Airbus.

“They have their relevance because world air traffic will continue to grow at 4 to 5% per year, airports are congested,” the official said.

The company even dreams of a new modern jumbo jet that is as large in capacity (around 500 to 600 seats), but lighter and therefore less costly to operate.

Very jumbo: Airbus and Boeing don’t believe it

In an interview at CNN travelsexplains its boss Tim Clark that the needs justify this new unit based on forecasts of passenger traffic growth of 4.5% per year from this year.

“Is it possible to redesign a new A380? Yes. Is it possible to lighten the aircraft? Yes. Imagine a composite wing and a mostly composite fuselage. what you have today. You get a lighter, much more fuel efficient aircraft, that ticks all the boxes on environmental issues.”

“A revisited A380 has all its interest”, says Cédric Renard. However, Airbus and Boeing have already expressed their doubts. Just like big companies. In short, Emirates is somewhat alone on this point.

6000 recruitments

Asked by BFM Business, the European aircraft manufacturer seems to believe that the A350-1000, the largest aircraft in its catalogue, meets the demand for jumbo jets.

“Our product strategy is to continuously develop our aircraft to meet the latest market demands, as evidenced by the commercial success of our entire product line, including the largest A350-1000 produced to date. Our next aircraft to enter service at the beginning of 2024 will be the A321XLR, and by the middle of the next decade we are aiming for a CO2-neutral aircraft, known as zeroE,” said a door-to-door.

“There is certainly room for a replacement for a Boeing 747, but I don’t think there is enough demand to launch a program for an aircraft larger than the A380,” explains Geoff Van Klaveren, aviation analyst and CEO of the independent aviation consultancy IBA A. A really big plane is key to Emirates’ business model because 70% of their passengers connect to other planes, but I don’t think Airbus or Boeing will build one just for them.”

No shortage at Emirates: 300,000 applications for its recruitments

While European air traffic has been hampered in Europe by the lack of staff on all floors, Emirates says it largely anticipated the situation. And the numbers make you dizzy.

The company is rehiring massively: 4,000 cabin crew members, 600 pilots and 140 types of positions offered for a total of 6,000 recruits. And focused on salaries, benefits such as free accommodation in Dubai… “We took the measure of the world we are facing”, emphasizes Cédric Renard, DG France.

These levers seem to be working well: the company received no less than 300,000 applications for its recruitment campaign.

And these campaigns continue, especially in France. Two open days are being organized on 11 October at the Hilton hotel in Paris-Charles de Gaulle and on 13 October at the Marriott Cité Internationale hotel in Lyon. For your CV!

Olivier Chicheportiche Journalist BFM Business

Leave a Comment