Emirates Airline on Tuesday marked the launch of the world’s shortest revenue flight with an Airbus A380 with the arrival of the first twice-daily service to Muscat. Flights EK 862 and EK 864 from Dubai International Airport stretch just 185 nautical miles each way, a distance shorter than the internal wiring of a single A380.
Both A380s flying to Muscat operate in a three-class configuration, carrying 429 seats in economy class on the lower deck, 76 flat-bed seats in business class, and 14 first-class private suites on the upper deck. Flight time between Dubai and Muscat lasts about 40 minutes, or five minutes longer than the time a team of 42 people takes to clean an A380.
The world’s largest operator of the A380 with 111 in service, Emirates hasn’t expressed total satisfaction with the economics of the superjumbo on the more traditional routes it typically flies. In fact, Emirates’ decision to reduce its outstanding order by 39 airplanes proved a tipping point in Airbus’s decision in February to cancel the program.
At the time of the announcement Emirates chairman and CEO Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum joined then-Airbus CEO Tom Enders in describing the end of the program as disappointing and noted he accepted the reality of the situation following months of failed negotiations with Airbus and engine maker Rolls-Royce over price concessions and performance improvements.
While Engine Alliance GP7200 turbofans power most of Emirates’ 111 A380s, the airline held outstanding delivery positions on firm orders for another 52 airplanes that would have come with Rolls-Royce Trent 900s. Its most recent contract involving the superjumbos, signed in February 2018, included a firm order for 20 Rolls-Royce-powered airplanes and options on another 16.
As part of the agreement to cancel the A380 orders, Emirates signed a deal for 40 A330-900s and 30 A350-900s, deliveries of which will start in 2021 and 2024, respectively. The airline plans to deploy the A330neos on regional routes, where the re-engined widebodies can serve smaller airports and open new destinations in its global network, the carrier said. Plans call for the A350s to supplement Emirates’ long-haul operations, providing the carrier with added flexibility in terms of capacity deployment on 8- to 12-hour missions from its Dubai hub.