Shaikh Ahmad Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of Dubai Civil Aviation and Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates Airline and Group. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/ Gulf News

Dubai: Just days after Emirates said it will be cutting down on its flights to five of its 12 US destinations following the electronics ban coupled with visa restrictions, its chairman says the airline would be redeploying aircraft used on those routes, to newer destinations in the East and Africa.

“We always think about what could be the new markets that we have to deploy aircraft to if that would be the case,” said Shaikh Ahmad Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of Dubai Civil Aviation, Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates airline and Group.

He added that Emirates has “more than a 100 destinations” that it doesn’t really yet flies to under its bilateral today. “It’s almost a 100 points that we can really serve. We always look at the East in a big way, including China, the Far East and India. And we also look at Africa in a big way.

“It’s a matter of supply and demand. I am ready to find ways and means to go into different markets. So it maybe that some of the challenges that you see today could be a benefit because I will be very much exploring those points in a different way to operate to,” he said.

Shaikh Ahmad was speaking to reporters on Tuesday at the Arabian Travel Market (ATM).

Emirates will see about 27 aircraft joining its fleet next year, according to Shaikh Ahmad. “So I really have to push for more bilateral to be able to use those.”

Asked if there was a contingency plan that Emirates had in place, should these bans continue for a longer period, he said: “I think we will always have a contingency plan. We always think about what could be going worse in the years to come,” without elaborating.

Commenting on the US President Donald Trump’s administration, Shaikh Ahmad said: “He is a businessman. So I am sure he is good and he will not take steps that would affect the American business.”

He also said that Emirates could, in fact, do more fifth freedom flights such as its Athens flight into the US. “If the market and the bilateral allow, why not?,” he said.

Electronics ban

Asked if Emirates was in talks with the US authorities to change the electronics ban status, Shaikh Ahmad said: “It is something that we always bring up with the people we meet,” without elaborating.

As an immediate measure, Emirates is handing over tablets to passengers who would like to use them on-board.

Fleet synergies

Emirates President Tim Clark said earlier this year that he was looking at buying smaller single-aisle narrow-body planes. When quizzed on the status of that, Shaikh Ahmad hinted at possible [fleet] synergies between Emirates and flydubai.

“If I am looking at it from the Dubai ownership of the two airlines, we have Emirates and flydubai. And we have a combined fleet — the A380, Boeing 777 and 737. Between the three [aircraft types], we can do something there,” he said without divulging exact plans. “I cannot spell it out. But you will hear something about it in the near future,” he said.

Profitable year

After reporting a 75 per cent half-year profit decline last year, Emirates is looking forward to a profitable year. The airline is due to announce its financial results for the year in a few days’ time. “We will be announcing our results in May. I must say that it will still be a profitable year for us. But it will be a challenging year,” said Shaikh Ahmad, adding that it was “tough” last year, “mainly due to the yields issue.”

Tim Clark succession plan

When asked about the succession plan for Emirates President Tim Clark after his impending retirement from the airline, Shaikh Ahmad said the airline has an “excellent calibre” of people in the company. “If we look at the leadership that we have within Emirates, we have an excellent calibre working for the company for a long time. At any time we want to do any changes, we have many people that can fill the role.”

New aircraft order

Emirates is likely to announce its order for one of the two aircraft types — Boeing 787 or Airbus A350-9 and -10 — at the Dubai Airshow later this year. The airline’s decision between the two aircraft types has been pending for a while now. “We haven’t taken a decision till today … hopefully, by the [Dubai] Airshow time,” said Shaikh Ahmad.