Dubai-based carrier poised to unveil huge widebody order at June's Paris air show

Emirates is on course to place the year's biggest orders at the Paris air show in June when it concludes multi-billion dollar deals with Airbus and Boeing for more A340s, A380s and 777s.

The Dubai-based airline has been in talks with both manufacturers for over 18 months about purchases. However, according to Emirates chief director (airline) Tim Clark, the plan has been expanded after the decree last year by Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum - the crown prince of Dubai - that he wants the emirate to be hosting 15 million visitors annually within 10 years.

"We're close to deals with Airbus and Boeing - it will be a much bigger order than previously envisaged," says Clark. "We plan to grow from a 45-aircraft fleet to 110-140 aircraft by 2013," he adds.

The Airbus component of the order will include additional A340-500s - it currently has six firm orders and 10 options - and at least 10 high-gross-weight (HGW) A340-600s for delivery from early 2006, as well as an undisclosed number of A380s. Emirates already holds orders for 22 A380s and 10 options, and Clark says the options will probably be retained with the new orders.

Emirates will be the launch customer for the HGW A340-600, which has maximum take-off weight increased by 8,000kg (17,600lb) to 376,000kg, enabling it to operate 14h missions with a 42-45t payload, says Clark. "We'll use it on direct Dubai-Sydney services," he says. The -600 will carry around 50 more passengers than the airline's 258-seat -500s, the first of which is due for delivery in September and will inaugurate Emirates' direct Dubai-Sydney services the following month.

The airline announced plans to acquire 25 777-300s at the Dubai air show in 2001 and is still negotiating the deal. The longer-range -300ER version is also being studied, but Clark will not disclose which version it will pick or whether the overall 777 order will be bigger than previously announced. He says the new aircraft will be incremental to the fleet, rather than replacements for smaller aircraft, as was planned.

Source: Flight International