The undeniable fact that Emirates is facing a growth barrier as a global airline is one matter, but the reading comprehension problem that has attended some recent fair and accurate articles about its future might tell us more about the state of public discussion than it does about the variability of aviation activity.
By far the best of the stories has just appeared on Bloomberg. There is no way that a reasonably literate person would conclude that this means it is about to ‘go broke’ or cease flying, and so forth, despite the tabloid noise that is being magnified by social media.
There are risks that could wipe Emirates out, although they would involve the collapse for any of a number of political or financial or religious schism reasons of the UAE, and the Arab world, that surrounds its Dubai hub and the rival but smaller Etihad hub of Abu Dhabi, just down the at times terrifyingly driven 99 kilometres that separate each city.
The Bloomberg story doesn’t venture into those external factors, which in all seriousness, should be properly treated, and quite possibly dismissed in part, in separate reports. So far, serious in-depth analysis of the critical issues in the Middle East has not been a feature of popular western news and analysis reporting.
The triumph of click driven media has stupidified social discourse and created a new media constituency of narcissistic users largely disengaged from the geo-political events that are going to define and most likely confine their lives.
If the Middle East were to plunge considerably deeper into mayhem and chaos than it has the consequences for air travel would be of trivial concern beside the massive damage and ruin this would bring to hundreds of millions of even more lives than have been damaged so far.
Putting aside those unmentioned nightmares the Bloomberg story makes it obvious Emirates has every prospect of remaining for the foreseeable future, a huge, high quality, and far reaching airline operating the world’s largest fleets of Airbus A380s and Boeing 777s.
But possibly not of Boeing 777-Xs, for which it has ordered 150, or about half the total orders for the type so far, should it be excluded from flying to the US as a Trump administration penalty for being too successful.
(The ME3 carriers, Emirates 150, Qatar Airways 60, and Etihad 25, have Boeing by the testicles with 235 of the 306 orders placed for the higher tech version of the 777 family, which is due in service from 2020. The support for the 777-X family by US carriers to date is zero orders, and their actual support for the current 777s has been pathetically small.)
One factor not mentioned in the Bloomberg report is the replacement component of those massive Airbus and Boeing orders placed by Emirates. The airline has said that 25 of the current tranche of 50 A380 orders are to replace aged A380s that first began entering service in 2008. In the course of the next 10 years it is likely that up to 100 of the giant and popular Airbuses will be replaced by new A380s, and later in the next decade, those jets may have lengthened fuselages, a modified wing, and newer technology engines, just as the A380s Emirates is currently putting into service can fly further and fuller than those it started acquiring nine years ago.
The standard 777s Emirates continues to put into service today are significantly more efficient than its oldest 777s, and as any jet gets ‘older’ and racks up pressurization cycles, the costs of its upkeep to essential safety standards rises to a point where replacement becomes more economical than refurbishment.
The most pressing issue regular Emirates flyers will likely notice today is that of congestion and increasingly obvious dysfunctionality at Dubai airport. That transition to the vast new Dubai World Central airport a quarter of the way to Abu Dhabi can’t come soon enough.