Emirates Sets New Standard for Airlines, But Will Its Master Plan Fly?

Despite initial success, some industry experts are skeptical of Emirates' ambitious expansion plans. Dubai's population (estimated at 1.7 million by the official United Arab Emirates website) is not large enough to support all those new aircraft on order, according to Adam Pilarski of AVITAS, an aviation consulting firm. "Clearly, they will not be flying their own people," he says. Pilarski believes Emirates will need to rely on a higher percentage of connecting traffic through Dubai than competing hubs in London or Paris, which draw from much larger local populations.

If Emirates succeeds, some European airlines will shrink, according to Pilarski. "With falling demand, way too many planes have been ordered," he says. "Something has to give." But if current economic conditions persist, "a number of Middle Eastern carriers will be canceling aircraft orders," he predicts, and that could include Emirates.

Travelers, have you flown Emirates or one of the other Middle East airlines? How would you compare it to other airlines you've been on?

Send David your feedback: David Grossman is a veteran business traveler and former airline industry executive. He writes a column every other week on topics of interest and concern to business travelers. E-mail him at travel@usatoday.com.

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