Emirates Airlines is studying the possibility of launching a transatlantic service via the UK to New York as it looks to the next phase of expansion with an incoming fleet of Boeing 777s and Airbus A330-200s.

Managing director Maurice Flanagan says that the airline is already in a position to launch a transatlantic service through Manchester. He adds that the service could eventually get routes from London, where it has a presence at Gatwick and Heathrow, although that is likely to depend on the outcome of the continuing UK-US open-skies talks. "We've put a marker down," says Flanagan, although he stresses that no decision is imminent.

Emirates has already begun to expand services, in the wake of the 1996 delivery of three Rolls-Royce Trent 800-powered long-range 777-200As to join its existing fleet of ten Airbus A310s and six A300s. These will be joined in mid-April by the first of four longer range 777-200IGWs, due for delivery this year. The aircraft is due to have its debut in May on the Melbourne route, and could be used to step up services such as Johannesburg and Bangkok.

The R-R-powered 777-200IGW is yet to be cleared for 180-minutes extended-range twin-engined operations, which is needed for services to Australia and South Africa, as well as any future transatlantic operation, but Emirates says that it has been promised that it is near. The airline holds options on a further seven 777-200IGW deliveries between May 1998 and June 2000.

The airline is also due to start taking delivery of 16 Trent 7000-powered A330-200s from 1999, which will replace the A300/A310s being traded back to Airbus. "Three or four years ago, we tried to persuade Airbus to come up with a straight replacement for the A300/A310 with a little more speed and range," says Flanagan.

He concedes that, in the longer term, Emirates will need to look at a narrowbody Boeing 737 or Airbus A320 family fleet to serve thriving short-haul operations from Dubai to destinations such as Jeddah, Karachi and Tehran. "It would make sense some time in the future to introduce a smaller aircraft as the balance between frequency and capacity shifts," he says, but he adds that a decision is not likely until the next decade.

Source: Flight International