Emirates Battle For Africa – Airline Pushing For Rapid Expansion

Emirates have released their route changes for 2019, and there are a few surprises in store. Australia may be losing out, but their loss is Africa’s gain, as they say. Well, we doubt any of the African carriers would say that, but still…

emirates in africa
Emirates are rapidly expanding into Africa

Emirates have been slowly sliding into Africa, picking up the slack where poorly performing native carriers are not. With these route changes, far more capacity has been added to the continent, demonstrating just where the airline is headed in the future.

Emirates first A380 to ghana
Ghana welcomes Emirates first A380 flight arrival last October

Commenting on the changes, President Sir Tim Clark said,

“At Emirates, we pride ourselves on being a customer-focused airline with a commercially-driven business model. We invest in a modern and efficient aircraft fleet so we can offer industry-leading comforts to our customers, and we are agile in deploying our aircraft to destinations where it best serves customer demand.

“The changes we are implementing to our network schedules in 2019 are in line with this approach, taking into consideration global market dynamics and operational limitations including the maintenance work on Dubai Airport’s Southern Runway. Through the year, we will continue to keep a close watch on global markets and will maintain our flexibility to optimise the usage of our aircraft assets.”

Talking of assets, there’s that unexpected order for the 787-10 to discuss. Simple Flying think they could be planning to deploy their new, smaller planes in Africa, to reach more destinations and airports than they can economically with their 777s and A380s.

Emirates in Zimbabwe
Emirates landing in Zimbabwe

New Emirates routes for 2019:

Among the expansions announced this week from Dubai are:

  • Casablanca, Morocco: The existing daily A380 service will be supplemented by an additional second flight, using a Boeing 777-300ER from June onwards.
  • Accra, Ghana: Their current once daily service will add four more flights per week from June, also using a 777-300ER.
  • Abuja, Nigeria: Three more flights are being added to this route using 777-300ERs from June, taking the frequency to daily.
  • Conakry, Guinea and Dakar, Senegal: Both capitals will have another linked flight added from June, also using the 777-300ER.
emirates ethiopia 2017
Emirates treated kids in Ethiopia to a screening of Cars 3 and some mini crew uniforms to promote their flights

Of course, it’s not just Africa that Emirates are boosting capacity on. The gulf carrier has also announced plans to increase service to a number of European destinations for the summer season. These include:

  • Athens, Greece: From the end of March to the end of October, there will be a second daily flight to the Greek capital. Mostly this will use a 777-300ER, but for the peak season (May 31st – September 31st) they’ll use an A380.
  • Rome, Italy: One more daily flight will also be added to the Italian capital, taking the total to three times per day for this route.
  • Stockholm, Sweden: During July and August, the route will move from once daily to twice daily, served by a 777.
  • Zagreb, Croatia: FlyDubai run this route during the winter season, but for the summer months Emirates will take back their route. A once daily flight using a 777-300ER.

Some of these services will either reduce or stop altogether during the refurbishment of Dubai International’s southern runway. This is scheduled for April 16th to May 30th.  Overall, the carrier says they will need to reduce service by around 25%, with 48 aircraft being taken out of service.

Interestingly, it’s not all about adding capacity for Emirates. They’ve also decided to drop their Bangkok to Sydney route from 1st June 2019 and are reducing their twice daily service to Perth down to just one per day from March 31st. Pulling out of some of the Australian services could be a marker of their close relationship with Qantas, much to the disgust of Qatar, of course.

Could they use the 787-10 to take over Africa?

For an airline that has traditionally only used two types of aircraft, their order for the Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner came as something of a surprise. And it wasn’t a small order either. The 2017 Dubai Airshow saw no less than 40 of the planes ordered by Emirates, but where do they plan to use them?

emirates 787-10
Could Emirates use their 787-10s in Africa?

The 787-10 was described by Clark as ‘a great eight hour aircraft’, indicating they plan to use them on medium haul routes from their Dubai hub. That puts it within striking distance of many African key destinations.

flight times from dubai
An 8 hour flight from Dubai would reach most of the African continent

If they’re anticipating not being able to fill an A380 or a 777 to capacity, it would make sense to deploy a smaller, more efficient aircraft on lower demand routes. The 787-10 would perfectly fill this niche and could see much more African penetration by the Gulf carrier.

Making it worse for African airlines

According to CAPA, Africa’s current commercial aircraft fleet is made up of 1,700 aircraft. In terms of new aircraft, there are only 257 on order from plane makers. Ethiopian has the largest order book right now, and even though Green Africa Airways is yet to launch, theirs is second to Ethiopian.

green africa airways
Green Africa Airways have some stiff competition

New start-ups in the African market typically struggle to overcome the barriers to success here. The massive penetration of foreign airlines, and the huge competitive advantage they have, means the native carriers find it hard to achieve a profit.

This leaves Emirates free to capitalise on the gaps left in the market, and right now they are by far the largest foreign carrier on the continent. The recent deepening of their codeshare agreement with beleaguered flag carrier South African Airways has only made it easier for them to snag more of the traffic.

Deeper codesharing with SAA has helped the native airline, but it’s helped Emirates too

And it’s not just Emirates who are making problems for the African airlines. All the other Gulf Carriers (Etihad and Qatar) as well as Turkish Airlines have been pushing into the continent over recent years.

In the autumn, BA increased their capacity on their South Africa routes, to plug the gaps left by SAA. Lufthansa Group’s airlines have added routes from Europe to Africa too, and other European airlines are gradually sliding into the market.

BA parked at King Shaka International Airport, Durban

While it’s exciting to see a start-up coming out of Africa, we do hope that Green Africa Airways are prepared for some stiff competition. Because this is one market Emirates (and many others) have a firm grip on already.