While Emirates is cutting back its US operations, the Qantas alliance partner is growing its Australian network with a third daily flight between Brisbane and its Dubai hub.
The new nonstop service begins on December 1 and will be operated by a Boeing 777-200LR featuring 266 seats across first, business and economy, Emirates said on Friday.
Currently, Emirates operates one Brisbane-Dubai nonstop service with Airbus A380s that continue onto Auckland, as well as a Dubai-Singapore-Brisbane flight operated by a 777-300ER.
The Dubai-headquarted airline also codeshares on Qantas’s Brisbane-Singapore flights.
Emirates divisional vice president for Australasia Barry Brown said the addition of a third daily service to Dubai would provide travellers greater access to Queensland ahead of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.
The move follows Emirates’ announcement in April it would upgauge one of its three daily flights between Dubai and Melbourne from the 777-300ER to the A380 from March 2018, when Qantas was due to withdraw its A380 Melbourne-Dubai-London Heathrow service in favour of a 787-9 Melbourne-Perth-London Heathrow offering.
Emirates currently has 77 flights a week to five Australian ports – Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney. In addition to nonstop flights to Dubai, some flights are routed via Asia, while others continue onwards from Australia to New Zealand.
In November 2015, Emirates and Etihad were granted additional traffic rights to Australia following the signing of a new air services agreement.
Under the new arrangements, Dubai-based Emirates would be able to operate 105 services to Australia each week to the four major gateways of Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney, an increase of seven from the previous agreement.
Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi-based Etihad, which has 42 flights a week to Australia currently with service to Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney, also received seven additional frequencies to Australia’s four largest airports, lifting its cap to 56 flights a week.
The expansion in Australia comes amid previously announced cuts to Emirates’ US network as the heavily criticised electronics ban introduced in March resulted in a significant deterioration in forward bookings.
Emirates said April it would halve service from Dubai to Boston, Los Angeles and Seattle from double daily to daily, while flights to Orlando and Fort Lauderdale were slated to be cut from daily to five times a week. Some routes would also be downgauged to smaller aircraft.
“The recent actions taken by the US government relating to the issuance of entry visas, heightened security vetting, and restrictions on electronic devices in aircraft cabins have had a direct impact on consumer interest and demand for air travel into the US,” Emirates said at the time.
The drop in demand for flights to the US puts further pressure on the Emirates group, which on Thursday announced a 70 per cent slump in profit for the 12 months to March 31 2017 to 2.46 billion Emirati dirham (A$908 million), from 8.18 billion dirham (A$3.02 billion) in the prior corresponding period.
Profit from the Emirates airline operation fell 82.5 per cent to 1.25 billion dirham (A$461 million), from 7.13 billion dirham (A$2.63 billion) previously.
Airline revenue was flat for the year, while load factors fell 1.4 percentage points to 75.1 per cent.
“Aviation and travel are notoriously vulnerable to social, economic, and political events, as well as the ever-changing expectations of consumers. For us, this year has been a particularly testing one,” Emirates chairman and chief executive Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum said in the Emirates annual report released on Thursday (UAE time).
He added in a statement accompanying the annual report: “We remain optimistic for the future of our industry, although we expect the year ahead to remain challenging with hyper competition squeezing airline yields, and volatility in many markets impacting travel flows and demand.”
Brisbane Airport chief executive Julieanne Alroe said Emirates’ third daily service would help meet increased demand.
“Indeed every new international flight into Brisbane injects millions of dollars into our economy and it’s not just South East Queensland that benefits as visitors often connect onto other popular intra and interstate destinations, as well as visiting local hot spots like the Gold and Sunshine Coasts,” Alroe said in a statement.
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