Where art thou, Emirates A380 in Melbourne?

Emirates A380

Emirates A380 A6-EDJ makes a late adjustment on approach to Heathrow. Photograph: AirSpace user Eclipse

Now that Virgin Australia’s re-branding is complete, there seems to be no question bigger on some minds than when Emirates will extend to Melbourne the honour it has given to Sydney by deploying the world’s largest aircraft, the Airbus A380.

The question seems to be grounded in fascination to see the latest and greatest, but there are serious business implications for Emirates deploying the A380.

The number of A380s it has purchased–90–may be an eye-popping figure larger that is larger than Virgin Australia’s entire fleet, but consider this other statistic. The second tranche of deliveries, as chief executive Tim Clark affectionately refers to it as, will commence this September and run for a few years, during which Emirates will take delivery of approximately three A380s a month.

Clark made this comment during his acceptance speech on Sunday in London for the Airline Business award for having the greatest influence on the industry in the past decade. As editor Max Kingsley-Jones observed, that influence is much to the pain of European airlines seated in the audience. But it extends to carriers throughout the world.

In February Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce publicly sounded the alarm over Qantas’s future with an ominous reference to Emirates: “Capacity has flooded into Australia from China, the Middle East and elsewhere.” (Joyce was far more courteous than some of his European counterparts have been.) Next month he will outline a new Qantas that can substantiate itself in the face of Emirates and other realities.

While airlines all over the world continue to respond to what Emirates has wrought, the carrier is now deciding their next consternation: where to deploy those A380s. Melbourne seems inevitable, but given Clark largely made his name in network planning, a decision at any time will only be made if right.

That, however, has not stopped some from within Emirates to say the A380 is coming to Melbourne, knowing full well there are no plans but hoping if people become excited enough Emirates will bow in.

But please, business first.


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