Emirates will not struggle to find enough economically viable routes on which to deploy the 90 Airbus A380s it has on order, and its 2020 fleet will be "modest" compared with airlines such as Air France-KLM and United Continental.

These are the main conclusions of a research note from Royal Bank of Scotland, which sees the Dubai-based carrier placing yet more aircraft orders in the second half of the current decade and into the following decade.

Emirates faced cynicism last June when it placed the single biggest A380 order with a deal for 32 of the type, taking its total order for the 500-seat aircraft to 90.

However, the RBS report supports the airline's growth strategy and, based on a hypothetical network and fleet plan to 2020, forecasts a growing share for Emirates in several key markets.

Emirates A380 signing
 © Billypix

RBS foresees Emirates adding 21 new destinations to its network by 2015, based on the assumption that it will have taken delivery of 60 A380s, 23 A350s and 109 Boeing 777s by that time. The hypothetical schedule sees the carrier focusing its A380s on routes to Australia, Europe, the USA, China and Japan.

By 2020, RBS expects Emirates to add a further 25 new destinations with a heavier emphasis on south Asia and North America. This assumes that all 90 A380s will be in operation by this time, in addition to 70 A350s and 67 777s.

The report predicts that Emirates' total fleet will increase to 249 aircraft in 2020 from 155 in 2010. "This is notably more modest than one might expect, given the media discussion around Emirates' high-growth plans," says RBS, noting that this compares to a current 722-strong fleet at Lufthansa Group and a 1,261-strong fleet at United Continental. "These figures are boosted by large portfolios of regional aircraft but the scale of the Emirates fleet, on our modelling, would be modest."

RBS expects Emirates to retire a "significant share" of its existing fleet over the coming 10 years. This is in line with earlier comments from Emirates chief executive Tim Clark (Flight International, 15-21 June 2010) that the carrier would begin a phase-out in February of around 68 of its older widebodies, including A330-200s, A340-300/500s and 777-200s.

Source: Flight International