WILL Emirates swoop in ahead of Malaysia Airlines (MAS) to be the first airline to land the A380 superjumbo at the KL International Airport in a commercial flight? Emirates is giving much thought to this possibility and given the good growth it is experiencing, this may well happen. But it is likely that we will have to wait until next year to find out.
The Dubai-based carrier already has eleven A380s in service, which it uses for several hot destinations such as London and Sydney. By 2020, it should have built up a fleet that includes 90 A380s and 132 B777s.
MAS has ordered six A380s. However, this has been delayed several times. The ball is now in MAS’ court as to whether it wants to pick up the aircraft or just cancel the order.
The earliest it is likely to get an A380, if it decides to go ahead with the purchase, is in 2012. This is why an Emirates A380 may touch down sooner at KLIA than an A380 with MAS livery.
The passenger numbers for the Dubai-KL route are on the rise and this has prompted Emirates to consider flying the A380 on this route, possibly by early next year. “It would be sooner than later, but it depends on passenger growth,’’ says Kavin Martinus, Emirates country manager for Malaysia.
Emirates began mounting flights into KL from Dubai in October 1990 with three weekly flights. Now it operates three daily flights. It has another flight, the Dubai-KL-Melbourne route, which uses KL as a transit stop. Martinus says the response has been good and the airline now uses the B777 for the route.
Last year, about 718,000 Middle Eastern tourists arrived at KLIA. Of these, about one tenth flew on Emirates. “With the additional flight (the transit flight), we expect to carry about 100,000 passengers this year with air passenger traffic volume on the increase,’’ Martinus says.
He adds that it is not just the sandy beaches and the shopping in Malaysia that appeal to the Middle Eastern tourists; they also see Malaysia as a destination that offers value for money.
The political tension in Bangkok has also diverted some traffic into Malaysia and Martinus believes there is a lot more untapped potential, especially in Sabah and Sarawak. If promoted properly, he says, there is room for further growth in tourist arrivals from the Middle East.
Air passenger traffic has picked up since late last year and according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the traffic statistics for June 2010 showed passenger demand up 11.9% from a year ago. Load factors are in line with historical highs of 79.8% for passenger traffic.
According to IATA’s world air transport statistics, Emirates ranked top in in 2009 in terms of international revenue passenger kilometres (RPK), with 118,284 million RPK ahead of Lufthansa’s 118,264 million.
“Revenue-wise, we are achieving our targets today and we are contributing to the network,’’ says Martinus, who declines to reveal the numbers.
The Emirates Group reported revenue of 45.4 billion Dubai dinars at the end of its last financial year ended March 2010. The carrier flies to 59 destinations and “we are in the top half in terms of revenue generation and importance”, says Martinus. “KL as a point of sale is a revenue generator and it has grown over the years. From the time we started, the revenues have grown more than ten-fold.”
The number of seats available now has jumped from 750 in a week to 1,110 in a day, and the airline has changed the aircraft type from A310 to B777.
Of the 71,800 passengers that flew on Emirates last year, 75% came from other parts of the Emirates network and the rest were Malaysians. More than 10% travelled on Emirates to go beyond Dubai. Most of them went to Europe.
Emirates’ business and first class fares are actually 15%-20% higher than its competition. But the two classes are popular with travellers. Martinus says Emirates averages 70% load for the Dubai-KL-Dubai route.
The challenge for Emirates is to deal with competition and the economic changes in its markets.