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Emirates Airbus A340-300. Copyright Vedant Agarwal. Photo used with permission.

Analysis: Emirates to launch Kabul continues trend of contrarian A340-500 utilization

by Vinay Bhaskara

MEB3 carrier Emirates is launching daily nonstop services to Kabul, its first Afghan destination, from 4th December, 2013. The route will be served using 258 seat Airbus A340-500 aircraft in a 3-class configuration (12F / 42J / 204Y).Flight Schedules for the new route are as follows:

Route Depart Arrive Duration Aircraft
Dubai – Kabul
0955
1315
2:50
345
Kabul – Dubai
1530
1800
3:00
345

The route is especially interesting because it is part of a pattern of Emirates’ curious utilization of its nine frame Airbus A340-500 fleet. At 1686 kilometers, Dubai – Kabul is an extremely short flight for the A340-500, which is one of the longest range aircraft in the world, with a design range of greater than 17,000 kilometers for the high gross weight (HGW) version operated by Emirates. In fact, the world’s longest flight, Singapore-Newark on the A340-500, at 15,345 kilometers. Even when Emirates first bought A340-500s (10 to be exact), it used the type on the longest routes in its network, like Dubai – New York JFK (11,022 kilometers) or Dubai – Sydney (12,039 kilometers). But over time, the A340’s role in Emirates’ network has shifted. The table and map below show the markets where Emirates operate the A340-500 in September 2013, as well as the market distance in kilometers.

*Note: Al Manama is Bahrain and Mahe is the Seychelles

Market Distance (km)
Dubai – Amman
2024
Dubai – Bahrain
488
Dubai – Beirut
2143
Dubai – Cape Town
7620
Dubai – Doha
383
Dubai – Entebbe
3723
Dubai – Hyderabad
2548
Dubai – Kabul
1686
Dubai – Kuwait
530
Dubai – Lyon
3548
Dubai – Nairobi
875
Dubai – Riyadh
3311
Dubai – Seychelles
4452
Dubai – Tunis
4452
Dubai – Venice
4435
Dubai – Vienna
4226
Courtesy www.gcmap.com

As the table and map show, Emirates is using the A340-500 on routes that are a lot different than its original design mission. The only route that could even remotely be considered long haul is to Cape Town, and even that is more of a mid-haul route than anything. The majority of the routes are in Europe and the Middle East and can even be operated by narrowbody aircraft.

The A340-500 has fallen out of favor with airlines around the world because it burns lots of fuel on ultra long haul routes relative to its direct competition; the Boeing 777-200LR, of which Emirates operates 10. It is clear that Emirates needs the extra widebody lift, which is why the A340-500s are still in the fleet. It’s also possible that the short routes are where the A340-500 loses the least money for Emirates, as the fuel costs are proportionately lower.

About Vinay Bhaskara

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