NEW YORK — The top executive at Dubai-based Emirates airline said Monday that he expects that the carrier’s Airbus 380 flights will return to New York in the first six months of 2010, because passenger demand should be recovering by then.
The airline started New York service with the double-deck aircraft in April of last year, but pulled it two months later and replaced it with the smaller Boeing 777. Emirates has stretched its network as demand sank in the recession, especially in the U.S.
Emirates currently has five A380s in its fleet.
CEO Tim Clark said in an interview with The Associated Press that the company is also interested in expanding to other U.S. cities like Washington, Seattle, Boston and Chicago. But Clark doesn’t expect the airline will add new U.S. destinations anytime soon.
“(History) has hardened us to knee-jerk reactions,” Clark said.
Clark said the airline has been filling planes in other U.S. cities it serves; including Houston, San Francisco and Los Angeles. But it’s kept a lid on the number of flights out of those cities because demand has been so soft.
The airline has also kept a close eye on the size of airplanes it uses at certain ports, choosing to replace bigger planes — like the A380 — with smaller ones to keep occupancy rates up during the downturn.
But the airline is still growing despite Emirates’ passengers numbers globally have jumped by about 21 percent since this time last year, Clark said.
Clark told the AP in June that the Arab world’s biggest carrier should stay profitable for the year through next March, even after its net profit last fiscal year tumbled 72 percent.
“The U.S. is coming along, but not as fast as Europe and Asia,” Clark said.
The International Air Transport Association said Thursday that global air passenger demand fell 2.9 percent in July, indicating that demand is improving, but hasn’t yet recovered.
And as demand is starting to show signs of recovery, Emirates has begun to raise fares again, Clark said, although fares are still discounted by as much as 50 percent on some routes.
Emirates serves nearly 100 destinations in 60 countries. It plans to launch service from its Dubai hub to Durban, South Africa, On Oct. 1 and to Luanda, Angola, on Oct. 25. The carrier has 128 passenger planes in service, with 123 on order — valued at more than $52 billion.