Dubai Air Show

Emirates links continents with rangier 777

 - November 11, 2007, 7:02 PM

Emirates Airline launched a new era in air travel last month when it flew its first Boeing 777-200LR from Dubai to São Paulo, Brazil. The trip marked the first time any carrier has linked all the world’s permanently inhabited continents with nonstop service from one hub.

The 15-hour, 30-minute flight no doubt left many with a case of jetlag, but its repercussions will certainly extend far beyond the biorhythmic disturbances of its passengers. Indeed, if Dubai makes good on its pledge to become the world’s air transportation hub, it can certainly point to Emirates’ first flight to South America as one of the milestone events that helped solidify that status.

In fact, Emirates has for some time been preparing for service with its second 777-200LR–a nonstop route between Dubai and Houston, Texas, scheduled to begin December 3. The new service is to operate three times a week until February 1, when it becomes a once-daily affair.

Houston will become Emirates’ second gateway in the U.S., one of five routes added this year to its network, which now stands at 96 destinations in 61 countries. Other recent additions include Toronto, Canada, where it launched service with the 777-300ER on October 29, and Ahmedabad, India, where it began flying an Airbus A330-200 and Boeing 777-200 on October 28.

Next year Emirates turns its attention to launching nonstop service to the U.S. cities of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Seattle and Washington Dulles International Airport. Another service to South America will likely involve Buenos Aires, Argentina. Asia Pacific development will include Australia and China, where Emirates would like to expand its service to Shanghai and Beijing by three more destinations.

Of course, the longest range additions to its network–such as those planned for South America and the West Coast of the U.S.–will require the reach supplied by the 200LR, the final eight of which it expects to arrive from Boeing’s Everett, Washington assembly plant over the next year. “From Emirates’ perspective, the aircraft performance limitations we faced when operations commenced in 1985 have to a large extent been overcome, and with the pending deliveries of our B777-200LRs and A380s, we will be able to serve more meaningfully the majority of the key global markets,” said Emirates CEO Tim Clark.

Still, the 777-200LR remained a somewhat modest seller late last month, as Boeing had collected firm orders for 44 of the airplanes from eight customers. Emirates, for one, sees a need for bigger airplanes that can match the 9,450-nm range of the 200LR. “We continue to press for improvement and are actively engaging with the aircraft manufacturers, principally Boeing, to produce a large quad, in the 400-seat size, that can carry a 55-ton payload over a 17-hour mission,” added Clark.

Qatar Airways stands as the only other carrier from the Middle East to have ordered 200LRs, six of which it expects to begin taking some time next year. That deal accompanied a firm order for fourteen 777-300ERs, the first of which Qatar expected to arrive this month. Qatar has also ordered a pair of 777 Freighters–a cargo variant of the 200LR–for delivery in 2009.

Over the summer, Air India took delivery of the first three of eight 777-200LRs on order. India’s national carrier launched the first-ever nonstop service by an Indian airline to the U.S. with its first 200LR, when it flew direct from Mumbai to New York JFK Airport on August 1. It plans to start flying another 200LR between Delhi and New York on January 7, followed by Bangalore-San Francisco sometime next spring.
Launch customer Pakistan International Airlines operates the program’s first flight-test airplane on service between Karachi and Toronto, and the second 200LR on domestic routes.