Emirates positive on prospects for Dublin
Emirates would have set up in Ireland a lot earlier than it did but for certain key factors, but its president says the airline has had a positive experience since its launch here in January
UNLIKE BELGIAN singer Édith Piaf, Emirates president Tim Clark has a few regrets. High among them was the decision not to enter the Irish market until January of this year, even though Dublin had been on the Dubai-based carrier’s radar for about 20 years.
“With hindsight, I regret not having moved earlier. Clearly, had we moved in the 1990s or 2000/2001 years we would have been much more established here. We would have had probably two flights a day by now and probably done very well.”
Why did Emirates wait so long?
“A number of things,” he says. “In the early years we were not concerned so much about the volume but about the yield . . . the quality of the pricing coming out of Ireland.
“Secondly, the opportunity costs of the aircraft. In other words, we could probably have made more money going elsewhere at the time. Even in the boom years.”
The 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States also had a hand.
“When 9/11 came along . . . it became slightly lower down the pecking order, which again, was a bit of a shame.
“Eventually, we reacted, and what we thought would happen in those years is exactly what has happened. It has outperformed our expectations.”
Emirates gave its Abu Dhabi neighbour Etihad Airways a significant head start on attracting Irish travellers to the Middle East and beyond.
Etihad’s group chief executive James Hogan has consistently stated the Irish routes are very profitable for the airline. It flies here 10 times a week and plans to move to twice a day at some point in the near future. Emirates has had a similarly positive experience since launching here in January.
On May 1st, it deployed a larger, 360-seat Boeing 777-300ER on the Dublin-Dubai route to cope with demand. It has so far carried about 120,000 passengers on the route.
Clark says a second daily flight “won’t be far behind” – “within the next 18 months or two years” is his prediction.
“It depends really on the availability of aircraft. They are coming in thick and fast now. We had a setback with the [Airbus] A380 in the early years. All our programmes were affected by that. Whereas we would have been into Dublin by 2007/2008, the A380 programme was three years late for us and that set back all our [expansion] plans.”
The airline recently added a second daily flight from Glasgow, so Dublin shouldn’t prove a stretch.
Clark even joked that if he could get a “runway extension” for Cork Airport, he’d put a flight in there given that he has a house in Lismore. About 40 per cent of the passengers leaving Dublin are hopping off in Dubai. The rest are using the Emirates hub to fly onwards to Australia and New Zealand, and parts of Africa and Asia. “We are opening up Adelaide in a couple of months,” he says. “That will be our fifth point in Australia. We are the biggest [overseas] player, apart from Singapore Airlines, in Australia.”
Ironically, given that we are in the depths of the worst recession in memory, Emirates offers a first-class cabin on its Dublin flights, in addition to business and economy.
Clark said Ireland, Spain and Greece are among its best performers in Europe. Go figure.