FARNBOROUGH: Emirates warns that physical constraints threaten further orders

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Confirming the much-speculated deal for 30 more Boeing 777s worth $9.1 billion, Emirates has warned that its appetite for further new aircraft orders depends on long-term infrastructure constraints being overcome.

The Farnborough order takes the airline's firm 777-300ER commitments to 71 aircraft, and comes on top of a contract agreed with Airbus last month to increase its A380 orders by 32 aircraft to 90. These aircraft will be used for growth and to replace the 68 older A330/A340 and 777 Classics that the airline is to start phasing out next year. Delivery of the newly ordered -300ERs will be interspersed with the remaining 18 777s on backlog, with deliveries due to begin in September next year.

However, Emirates Airline boss Tim Clark says that the new A380/777 orders, combined with the airline's existing 777 commitments and 70 A350-900/1000s, effectively brings the current fleet expansion and replacement plan to a close.

"Physical constraints are the single largest inhibitors to Emirates' growth - these include what airports can take the A380, how quickly the Dubai hub can be built to match our expansion, and airspace management issues," says Clark. "If it hadn't been for those inhibitors we would have made much larger orders for expansion over the next 10 years."

Clark says that an immediate benefit of Emirates' huge June A380 deal has prompted "around 20 airports to contact us and say 'ah, we now realise you are absolutely serious about what you are doing, we'll make our airfields compliant. Will you come here?' Some of these are in the UK and some in continental Europe - so in some respects that part of the jigsaw is being sorted out."