Stating that all competition is “healthy”, the Emirates chief dismissed concerns over neighbouring Saudi Arabia positioning itself as the next aviation hub in the Gulf region, which includes the launch of its new airline, Riyadh Air, in 2025.

“I [have] always said, the Gulf market can take more than one hub. Why do people think we can’t? When we started in the UAE, we started with one [airline]. Many countries in Asia, Europe, America, have more than one airline. It is healthy to have more competition, but we as an airline have to run [operations] as a business to make money,” said Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates Airline and Group, on the sidelines of the Dubai Airshow.

Emirates is also moving ahead with its growth strategy, despite struggling with aircraft delays from aerospace manufactures. The airline, which has been vocal about the 777-x delays, still went ahead and announced a record 95-plane order with Boeing on day one of the airshow.

“Is there another choice? Everyone knows the A380 is at the end of the programme. What we have today won’t take us far. What will take us far are 777s and A350s. We hope someone comes with up with something different; the Brazilians, the Canadians are all single aisles. We try to push all the time [for timely deliveries],” Sheikh Ahmed added.

Questioned whether the airline was looking to place more aircraft orders before the end of its 2023/2024 financial year, Sheikh Ahmed remained cryptic: “The team is working on an announcement in the timeframe. But I have to be satisfied whenever I sign on a deal”.

Sheikh Ahmed also said that the airline would place orders for A350s “when we are comfortable, and the deal is good for us.”

The Emirates chief also ruled out plans for an IPO, saying: “My answer is always the same: the government will decide.”

(Writing by Bindu Rai, editing by Seban Scaria)