Regional airports are increasingly hoping to attract Emirates as the airline prepares to take delivery of new wide-body aircraft next year. Belgrade and Sarajevo are eying operations from one of the world’s busiest international carriers, while Zagreb is aiming to see the company restore flights to Croatia. However, competition is growing with Greece inviting Emirates to consider the possibility of launching flights to Thessaloniki, which would continue to New York. “Residents of Balkan countries prefer to travel abroad through Thessaloniki. The airport currently connects to several cities across the Balkans including Belgrade, Zagreb and Tirana. The potential is great and would contribute to establishing Thessaloniki into a hub for the Balkans”, the Greek government said.
Annual two-way Dubai capacity, 2023
The President of Emirates, Tim Clark, said this June, “In terms of network, when the A350s come in, then Emirates will look to new African, European and American destinations with those aircraft. I have fifteen to twenty new destinations which could come immediately to my mind. It is a good airplane, the A350-900“. Emirates is due to take delivery of its first A350-900 next year, while the much-delayed 777X is expected to come into service in 2025. Emirates’ Chief Commercial Officer, Adnan Kazim, noted, “We have a line-up of aircraft that will start to come into the fleet in August 2024. We have an order for fifty A350s, which will start entering the fleet in the next financial year, and the delivery of those will be completed over three-and-a-half years. Those fifty aircraft will be divided into two different sub-fleets. One for regional operations within a range of seven-eight hours and can reach places in Africa, the Middle East, Europe and Asia. The second sub-fleet of the A350s will head towards destinations that are more than ten hours from Dubai”,
The Serbian Prime Minister, Ana Brabić, held talks with the Founder and CEO of Emirates, Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, in Dubai both last year and this February. The meetings are said to have been successful with the Emirati carrier previously having studied options of introducing flights to the Serbian capital. On the other hand, Sarajevo Airport previously said that existing operations from Dubai, maintained by hybrid carrier Flydubai, could be further expanded with Emirates’ arrival. “We sincerely hope that a respectable airline such as Emirates will consider and accept our offer in order for us to commence negotiations. There is strong demand and potential between the UAE and our country. Flydubai has been our partner for many years, and we have excellent cooperation with them. In the coming period, we will work to further enhance our partnership”, Sarajevo Airport said. Emirates has also conducted a feasibility study on operations to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s capital, showing solid, albeit highly seasonal, demand in both the premium and economy cabins.
Emirates discontinued flights to Zagreb in 2020 at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. However, the airline said that while it is recovering quickly from the pandemic and capacity should return to pre-Covid levels next year, no final decision has been made concerning its Zagreb flights. “We hope to restart our operations in Zagreb when it is commercially and operationally feasible to do so in the future, and we will make a formal announcement if there are any developments in this regard”, the airline said.