Airline is forced to delay direct services to Sydney due to late arrival of A340-500s, which are being modified

Emirates has been forced to push back the launch of direct services from its Dubai base to Sydney after another slip in the delivery of its new Airbus A340-500s.

The carrier, which will be the launch operator for the -500 following the deferral of Air Canada's order, had been due to introduce the ultra-long range airliner on 26 October on Sydney flights, replacing the existing Boeing 777-operated service which routes via Singapore.

Revealing the delay, Emirates managing director France Jean-Luc Grillet says: "We haven't started the advertising campaign for the direct flights, so we'll continue the current routing via Singapore and start promoting the new route when we are sure we have the aircraft," he says.

The October start itself was much later than planned as deliveries of the -500 were delayed from April until September due to the need for installation of post-certification changes by the manufacturer. These include the retrofit of kevlar liners into the centre-section fuel tank, following a requirement by the US Federal Aviation Administration (Flight International, 12-18 August 2003).

According to Emirates sources, the airline will now receive its first four A340-500s in October and November, and use them for crew training ahead of launching services in December. The remaining two of its initial batch of six -500s will arrive in March and July next year, respectively.

The slip means that the service introduction of the A340-500 will come a full 12 months after the type was certificated by the European Joint Aviation Authorities.

Other early destinations planned for the -500 include London Gatwick, and Osaka, Japan. The aircraft will also be used to launch the airline's first foray into the US market in April on flights to New York, with San Francisco following later next year.

Emirates is ready to launch a daily flight between Dubai and Cape Town, according to South African Regional Manager, Juan van Rensburg. "We are ready to go as soon as we have received the necessary approvals from all participating stakeholders," he says. The airline already flies to Johannesburg.

Source: Flight International