Emirates, the airline that gets up the nose of just about every carrier on the planet, has announced a surge into the US that could see all of a greatly expanded American network flown exclusively by giant Airbus A380s within five years.

That disclosure, by Emirates president Tim Clark, in an interview in The Wall Street Journal, totally eclipses the big American aviation story of the day in Australian terms, which is the ACCC approval of a proposed joint business venture between Qantas and American Airlines.

If the ACCC had disapproved of the Qantas/American deal that would have been a real story. But the AA/QF JBA is one of those common sense things that competition regulators can’t really block even if they were so persuaded because the 13 years history of international approvals for marketing and route alliances has become so deep seated the process of stopping them would have huge consequences for the bigger picture of world trade reforms.

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Emirates, its ambitions, and it successes, are something altogether different, since it does things on its own. No alliances. No JBAs. No ‘virtual’ airlines. Just one great big brand. Which doesn’t pay any taxes.

The actual announcement from Emirates was modest by its standards.  It would start daily Dubai-Dallas Fort Worth flights on 2 February and daily services to Seattle from 1 March, both initially with either Boeing 777-300ERs or -200LRs. It already has A380s and 777s to New York City, and other 777s to San Francisco and Los Angeles.

But it is what Clark said in supporting interviews that grabbed the US headlines. From 2013 it can start replacing 777s with A380s to California because of further improvements to the big Airbus in terms of range and payload, and based on demand, growth and the fact that it makes money out of every flight why wouldn’t it use the cost advantage of the giant Airbus against its competitors.

Clark’s comments help us understand what Emirates plans to do with up to 90 A380s, bearing in mind that some of that total order book is for replacing the early A380s,  as this is an airline with a fleet that has a unit average age of six years and two months.

It intends to fly them between Dubai and dozens of tier one long haul  cities, including its entire US network, while deploying dozens of 777s and A330/A350s on shorter destinations in nearer parts of Europe, Africa and Asia, where frequency of service in ‘smaller’ sized wide body jets are commercially desirable.

As made clear in various international news reports, these ambitions by Emirates are giving rise to ferocious criticism from other airlines, including Lufthansa and Air Canada, who have embarked on what we would call a political crusade against this heathen juggernaut, if we were culturally insensitive.

Clark said he intends to at least double the number of US cities it flies to in the same period that it is looking to optimise all of those flights to A380s.

Emirates currently flies 70 services a week between Australia cities and its Dubai global portal, plus another 28 across to New Zealand during the down time that those jet would otherwise remain parked at Brisbane, Sydney or Melbourne waiting to make return flights to Dubai .

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Australia has spoken. We want more from the people in power and deserve a media that keeps them on their toes. And thank you, because it’s been made abundantly clear that at Crikey we’re on the right track.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief
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