Emirates touches down: Daily service to Dublin from Dubai begins


IT WAS like a return to pre-recession times at Dublin airport yesterday morning as the first Emirates flight arrived 15 minutes before its appointed time from Dubai.

The airline will serve Dublin daily with an A330-200.

Assembled guests sipped champagne and ate canapés while they watched from a specially decked-out lounge at Terminal 2 as flight EK0162 touched down to the traditional water-cannon salute.

Emirates have spared no expense in entering the Irish market, even to the extent of hiring Lionel Richie to entertain 800 guests at the Convention Centre Dublin last month.

Before the aircraft had even taken off, Emirates declared the daily service a success with 90 per cent seat occupancy. This is well above the 60 per cent it needed to break even, said the airline’s president, Tim Clark, who was on the inaugural flight with the Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar.

Mr Varadkar said the Emirates service, which adds to rivals Etihad’s twice-daily flights from Dublin to the Middle East, were a “good-news story when it is hard to get good news in Ireland”.

Mr Clark said they had been attempting to get a service into Ireland for 10 years and their research had shown demand remained “very strong” despite the recession. “For us it was something we really couldn’t put off any longer. It was too important for us to leave out.”

The airline had envisaged needing an A330-220 with a capacity of 237 passengers for the first 18 months of the service, but they were already planning to introduce a bigger Boeing 777, he said.

It is Emirates 118th route. The airline, which is backed by the Dubai government, has reached impressive levels of expansion, turning over $15.6 billion last year in a difficult market.

The inaugural flight included a number of Middle Eastern and Indian media. Where previously there was no direct connections between Ireland and the Middle East, there are now 17 flights a week divided between Emirates and Etihad Airways based in neighbouring Abu Dhabi.

Tourism Ireland chief executive Niall Gibbons said Emirates gave Ireland another entry into growing tourism markets.

Tourism numbers were up by 10 per cent from Australia and developing markets in Asia last year and he expected double-digit growth again this year.

Mr Gibbons pointed to projections which showed Asia would account for a third of all the world’s tourism spending within 15 years. It was critical for Ireland to have a stake in that market, he said.

“This new services opens 10 new gateways into India, four into China, several into Australia, and New Zealand is just one stop away. From a connectivity perspective Ireland is much easier to get to.”