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02 December 2023

Emirates: ‘Our worry is not too many planes, but too few'

By Shweta Jain



The airline is growing at about 20 per cent a year. It should pass the 200-aircraft mark by 2012. While an IPO will have to be decided by the owner, it will consider selling more bonds. Emirates profit this financial year to be $1bn.


You came to Dubai planning to stay for just two years. What has kept you here for 30?    


Dubai was so exciting that I stayed on and on. And I am very happy I did. I was invited to come here to manage Dnata. From Dnata, I went on to directly engage with the government. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed [bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai] decided to start the airline in 1985. I was appointed the Managing Director of Emirates airline.


What kind of future do you want to build for Emirates?


I see Emirates becoming the biggest airline in the world very soon. To be precise, I see it as the biggest international airline – the biggest carrier of international passengers. Between 2012 and 2015 it is quite likely that Emirates will carry more international traffic than any other airline in the world.


How much of a role has Dubai played in helping Emirates fly higher?


Dubai is a powerful magnet for traffic of all kinds. That includes both tourism and business. More business is coming here with regional and international headquarters of companies moving into Dubai. Also, Dubai is perfectly placed to be a true global hub. It is in the centre of the way the world works. From here, we can connect to about 22 points in the world. We are connecting to more and more points every day.


Emirates seems to be on anaircraft-buying spree. Isn’t the airspace in the region becoming crowded? Is there no danger of over-capacity?


Our problem is not too many planes, but too few. We are short of capacity all the time. We are growing at about 20 per cent a year and we will continue to grow at that pace for some time. At the forecast rate of deliveries, Emirates should pass the 200-aircraft mark around 2012. So I do not see any danger of overcapacity in the region. Nor do I see any consolidation taking place in the region’s aviation sector.


Emirates has evolved at a scorching pace since inception, and is today contemplating an initial public offering. What would it mean forthe airline?


It depends on the owner of the airline, which is the Dubai Government, how soon Emirates will go public. But I can tell you Emirates will make a profit in this financial year [ending March 2008] of at least $1 billion (Dh3.67bn) net. We may consider selling more bonds as well, but there are no immediate plans.


Does the thought of an initial public offering excite you?


Well, increased involvement by more people could perhaps impede the decision-making process. One of the reasons we make very quick decisions is that there is no board in the way. But an IPO will happen, sooner or later.


You intended to be a football player. What made you fly instead?


During an evening outing, I suffered a knee injury that jeopardised my potential career as a football player. That was one of the most memorable incidents in my life. After bidding adieu to athletics, in 1953 I joined the British Overseas Airways Corporation, the forerunner of British Airways, as a management graduate trainee. I joined British Airways’ senior management team in 1974. In 1978 I left British Airways to become Director and General Manager of Dnata.



Maurice Flanagan

ExecutiveVice-Chairman, Emirates airline and Group


He came to Dubai intending to stay for just two years. Thirty years later, he is still enjoying working and living in the Emirates.


Emirates’ Maurice Flanagan needs no introduction in the world of aviation.

Flanagan is a proficient narrator – full of anecdotes from experiences in his life.


The 79-year-old Englishman joined the aviation industry in 1953. He came to Dubai with British Airways, before joining Emirates.


He attended Liverpool University, where he gained a bachelor’s degree in history and French.