SCOTLAND’S largest passenger flights, which are operated by Emirates between Glasgow and Dubai, are to be temporarily halved to one a day next year because of resurfacing of the Middle East hub’s runway.
Services will be reduced from twice daily for around six weeks from 1 May, with the airline considering how it will cope with passenger demand on the fast-growing route.
The link is becoming so popular with Scots using Dubai as a one-stop hop to Asia and Australia that Emirates has raised the prospect of drafting in the world’s largest passenger jet - the Airbus A380 superjumbo - in the next three to four years to cope with demand, as The Scotsman revealed in June.
Rising passenger numbers on the route since it was launched nine years ago has prompted Emirates to progressively increase capacity, first by increasing the size of aircraft, then by launching a second daily flight in June last year, which included Scotland’s first first-class cabins.
Prior to that, its Boeing 777-300 ER aircraft, which carry 360 passengers, were flying full, so an Airbus A340, with 274 seats, was added for the second flight. That has since been replaced with a second 777 plane. The Airbus A380 can carry 517 passengers.
Emirates said that May was the route’s quietest month, but passenger numbers increased by 40 per cent in that month compared to a year ago, and forward booking was “very strong”.
Laurie Berryman, Emirates vice-president, UK, said of the Glasgow route last year: “It has been one of the most successful services we have ever had. We will see very strong growth.”
He said today that no final decisions on cutting flights would be made until the autumn, but only one flight a day from next May was currently bookable on the Emirates website.
Mr Berryman said it was likely that only one flight would operate for about six weeks, as part of a 25-30 per cent cut in the airline’s flights to and from Dubai, which would affect all the airport’s other carriers.
Fast-growing Dubai is nearly as busy as Heathrow with an expected 65m passengers this year.
A spokesman for Emirates said: “Emirates has a close working relationship with Dubai airports and is aware of the need for runway upgrading work to be carried out in May 2014.
“We fully support the airport enhancements, which are in the wider interests of Dubai’s development as a global aviation hub.
“Emirates will provide full cooperation with any rescheduling required and adjust operations accordingly.”
A spokesman for Glasgow airport said: “Since its launch in June 2012, Emirates’ second daily service to Dubai has proved hugely successful - so much so, that in January the airline added extra capacity by introducing a second Boeing 777 aircraft on the route.
“The runway maintenance works due to be carried out at Dubai International airport have been scheduled at a time which will ensure any disruption to this popular service is kept to a minimum.”