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Dubai's Emirates places largest order in civil aviation history

Airline pays $19 billion for 45 Airbus super jumbos
Carrier's faith in future of air transportation rooted in rock-solid record of consistent

Dubai based Emirates made the largest order of the new Airbus jumbo passenger plane A380 that was launched in Toulouse, France on Tuesday.

Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, Chairman of Emirates, who led a delegation of senior executives from the airline for the launch of A380 said: "I am very proud that Emirates was the first airline to sign for the A380 - and that today we are its largest customer, with 45 of them on order.

I am also pleased that we are the launch customer for the freighter version of the A380." He added that this aircraft is a key element in Emirates' future growth. "Air travel is forecast to double in the next 14 years. There are continued constraints on traffic rights and the availability of landing slots - and therefore, large capacity aircraft will be vital to Emirates' need to meet the increasing passenger demand." Sheikh Ahmed concluded that "the A380 is the future of air travel."

The Dubai-based international airline was not only the first customer for this next generation aircraft, but is also now its biggest customer by a large margin. Emirates has worked closely with Airbus in the design and development of the A380, as the airframe has moved from concept to the drawing board and on to the production line. Other Arab and European airlines showed keen interest in the new Airbus planes. The Arab airlines, according to the Arab Civil Aviation, achieved a 24-percent growth in 2004 while most Western airlines suffered heavy losses due to fierce competition and high prices of fuel oil. Experts believe that many Arab airlines will make huge orders of Airbus and Boeing in the coming few years.

April 2000 saw Emirates' first formal expression of interest in what was then the A3XX, an interest confirmed three months later at the Farnborough Air Show when it became the first airline to sign a firm commitment and place a deposit for the aircraft.

Making a major long-term commitment, the award-winning carrier then signed on for five passengers and two cargo variants of the A380, along with five further options, in a deal worth $1.5 billion. Emirates displayed further confidence in the aircraft at the end of 2001, at a time when most airlines were re-trenching after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the U.S.

Emirates ordered a further 15 A380s at the Dubai Air Show in December 2001, part of a multi-aircraft order worth an impressive $15 billion at list prices. In February 2002 Emirates placed a $1.5 billion order for 98 GP7000 engines (88 installed and 10 spare), produced by GE Aircraft Engines' and Pratt & Whitney's Engine Alliance, to power the 22 A380s ordered up to then. But this was still merely a stepping stone. Scarcely over a year later, at the Paris Air Show in June 2003, Emirates more than doubled its commitment to the "super jumbo" by ordering a further 23 of them, taking its total A380 order book to a staggering 45 aircraft. The order for the additional A380s formed the bulk of an overall $19 billion order that astounded the airline world as the largest in civil aviation history. Finally, before the end of that same year, at the Dubai Air Show in December 2003, Emirates placed a second and last order, worth $1.5 billion, for another 101 GE-P&W Engine Alliance GP7200 engines (92 installed and nine spare) for the 23 A380s ordered in Paris. With this second order and a total of almost 200 of the new, yet-to-be-produced engines in the Emirates pipeline, the airline became its top buyer worldwide.

While some observers have arched their brows at the optimism of Emirates, the airline's faith in the future of air transportation and its own potential is rooted in a rock-solid record of consistent profitability for the past 17 years, and a doubling in size every four years on average. Indeed, in Emirates' meticulous long-term planning, A380 operations have already been charted from October 2006, when the airline is scheduled to take delivery of the first of those aircraft. In a first hint of what facilities might be found onboard, Emirates began finalizing its commitments for the interior equipment at the Farnborough Air Show in 2004, placing a groundbreaking $1 billion deal with Matsushita for its ex2 in-flight entertainment system for the Airbus A380. The carrier also committed $80 million to the purchase of First Class suites from B/E Aerospace for its A380 fleet. The airline's global hub at Dubai International Airport will be ready to receive the double-decker at its newly opened Terminal 3, which will have a total of 23 departure gates and aerobridges specifically designed for the super jumbo. The arrival of the first Emirates Airbus A380-800 in October 2006 will be a major milestone for the airline. It will signify its first step in the gradual build-up toward becoming the world's largest operator of the super jumbo. With a full third of all the orders received so far by Airbus for the new aircraft, Emirates' position as the leading A380-equipped airline is assured for at least a decade. For the first time, Emirates will be able to transport more than 500 passengers in a single aircraft, with a quality of airline product and comfort that is Emirates' trademark and has helped it win more than 250 customer service awards during its less than 20 years in business. The large passenger capacity of the A380 will enable Emirates to make up for slot constraints at many of the world's major airports, while the aircraft's ultra-long-haul range of around 15,000 kilometers will provide the airline with the ability to link the farthest-flung destinations on its global network with one single stop at its Dubai hub.

Beirut,01 24 2005
The Daily Star
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