Shaikh Ahmad Bin Saeed Al Maktoum chalked out the flagship carrier’s expansion strategies at the Dubai Airshow. Image Credit: Zarina Fernandes/Gulf News

Dubai: One of the two Dubai airlines — flydubai or Emirates — will be moving operations to the Al Maktoum International at Dubai World Central by 2020, Shaikh Ahmad Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman and Chief Executive, Emirates Airline and Group, told Gulf News in an interview on Sunday alongside the Dubai Airshow.

“At the end of the day, we need to have more capacity at Al Maktoum International Airport… like what we have at Dubai International. And that’s exactly what will happen here as well. So in the future, you will see that Dubai gets two airports with almost similar capacity at both the airports.

Asked if Al Maktoum International airport will see at least one of the two airlines — flydubai or Emirates — move operations there, Shaikh Ahmad said: “For sure, 100 per cent,” adding it will be either flydubai or Emirates.

He said: “Soon, His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, will announce the expansion for the Al Maktoum International. So from there we will take it on, which means we need to build more facilities here similar to what we have at Dubai International airport.”

350-450 aircraft fleet by 2025

Emirates will have between 350 and 450 planes in its fleet by 2025, according to Shaikh Ahmad. “It could be anything between 350 and 450 aircraft for Emirates by 2025. However, I can easily say that divided by seat numbers, it could be much more than that. We will grow the business as our bilaterals grow and we open new routes. I still remain very positive in that regard,” he said.

Future growth markets

Emirates has been ordering a lot of big planes. Asked where the airline’s future growth is going to come from, Shaikh Ahmad said: “A big chunk of new aircraft will be replacement for the existing fleet, plus they will be used for adding new destinations and operating more frequencies to certain points that we fly to today. With regards to new destinations, for us, all six continents are important for growth.”

Additional landing rights into Canada

Commenting on Emirates’ status on additional Canadian rights the airline has been seeking for sometime now, Shaikh Ahmad said: “It’s a matter of time. Meanwhile, we are expanding into the North American market. It’s not just Canada, for us, other markets are also big, including Africa, the Far East, Russia and China.”

flydubai’s entry into key Indian markets

Shaikh Ahmad said additional rights for flydubai into some of the key Indian cities is “in the pipeline”. “We always try with all the governments to explore new bilaterals. It’s always a matter of time. With some countries, it takes longer than you anticipate. But it’s in the pipeline,” he said.

“Meanwhile, I am pleased to see that flydubai has really helped a lot in adding so many points, especially to the former Soviet Union countries. And that really was a plus, linking Dubai to that part of the world.”

Asked if Emirates was the reason why flydubai hasn’t yet managed to achieve additional rights into India since there’s a danger of it eating into Emirates’ share of the market, Shaikh Ahmad said: “Emirates is a legacy airline — it’s a different product. Also, with flydubai, it’s a different offering — such as when we needed to add a Business Class configuration in it, we did.”

Equity partnership with Qantas

Asked if Emirates would take its alliance with Qantas to an equity partnership level at some stage, Shaikh Ahmad said: “We have a very different agreement with Qantas. So no, we will not take it to an equity partnership level.”

Further commenting on whether Emirates will consider any equity partnerships in the future at all, he said: “We don’t need to do that [get into equity partnerships].”

Expo 2020

Commenting on whether the airline’s expansion plans were pegged to the UAE winning the bid for the World Expo 2020, Shaikh Ahmad said: “All the expansion for Emirates with all the large scale aircraft orders and the deals that the airline signed on Sunday has nothing to do with the Expo 2020.”