September 2, 2008

Airline Boosts Capacity to Meet North Demand

By Graeme King

EMIRATES airline is already looking ahead to using a bigger aircraft on its Newcastle to Dubai route after a successful first year of operation.

The UAE-based airline said yesterday it has carried 140,000 passengers in the last year - 20,000 more than its original target of 120,000 - with more than 25% being business flights.

The total number of passengers amounts to the equivalent of one in 20 of the entire population of the region. Freight traffic through Newcastle has also grown hugely thanks to the arrival of Emirates - more than quadrupling to 1.7m kilogrammes.

The route has been so successful that Emirates is already considering a future upgrade from an Airbus A330 to a Boeing 777. The larger aircraft can carry 346 passengers, compared to the 278 on the Airbus - a 24% increase, and would also have even more freight capacity - 20 tonnes rather than 14.

Vic Sheppard, vice president of Emirates in the UK and Ireland, said: "We've seen some of our best-ever figures for a UK route launch, despite operating through some tough times.

"We would certainly aspire to graduate to a 777 here. That would be a natural progression for us, and not that ambitious. We would expect that after maybe three years.

"Given that it has been a challenging time for the entire airline industry, we are delighted to have received such strong support from the North East travelling public."

After Dubai, the most popular destinations for Emirates passengers are Thailand, Australia, Mauritius, The Maldives, Malaysia, South Africa and China. Peak bookings times have been January and February, driven by the desire to escape the North East winter for some sun.

Regular cargo shipments have included oilfield equipment to Australia and Indonesia, and pipeline inspection equipment is frequently sent to the Middle East and Singapore.

Dave Laws of Newcastle International Airport, said: "The Emirates service has literally opened up a whole new world for us. The airport has a much more cosmopolitan feel about it now that we have passengers traveling to and from not only to the Middle East, but Asia, Africa and Australia as well."

The passenger total on the Newcastle Dubai route was made up of 70% outbound customers and 30% inbound, and between 20% and 25% of all those travelling were business passengers.


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