A380 shortest flight: odd facts and the core of Emirates problems

Sometimes airlines do things like this that make you wonder if they’re entirely sane.

The flight from Dubai to Muscat in Oman, is just 380km – 236 miles.

Oman Air, based in Muscat already suffers from customers being poached by Emirates – it can’t offer the destinations and it’s often significantly cheaper to drive to Dubai and fly Emirates, than, fly direct to somewhere like London. And Oman Air hasn’t always had much of a service reputation.

There’s a significant market between the two airports – enough that Emirates is offering a twice daily flight on an A380, not because it needs to but because it wants to grab a bigger market share and this grabs headlines.

The flight itself doesn’t have time or space to exceed 20,000 feet. It’s one of those pointing up, pointing down flights that anyone who’s flown from London to Manchester will recognise in a second.

It’s flight time is 40 minutes. It takes 5 minutes longer to clean it after each flight using 42 people.

The wiring in an A380 is 500km long. 120km further than the flight.

23,000 items for catering to a full passenger load are carried on each flight.

It has 14 first class suites for those who feel they need 40 minutes away from the madding crowd.

And let’s not ask about the Co2 output of a flight like this which is just about the worst possible profile for an aircraft of this size, never mind the fact it doesn’t even reach an optimal cruising height to maximise fuel burn.

I love the aviation industry but sometimes its self-centred and inconsiderate approach, and the way it gloats about how clever it is for having come up with a gimmick flight like this nauseates and disappoints. Because that’s what this is, a gimmick.

It makes me realise we’re a billion miles from changing peoples habits and getting airlines to behave responsibly.

Much of this is down to Emirates ridiculously over-simplified aircraft strategy.

They tried to apply the rules of low cost operators – have one type of aircraft above all else, giving flexibility and inter-operability.

Except they cut that two two basic types and that was actually three – A380, 773ER and 772LR.

The A380’s are also not really inter-operable. They don’t have universal power, they certainly don’t have the same layouts – so each sub-class of A380 is limited to the routes it’s layout is designed for. And the same happens with the 773’s, although they at least have one engine supplier.

Emirates all or nothing approach has lead to it struggling with over capacity in the saturated Gulf market. Qatar especially is giving it a run for its money especially in the transfer market, and the Saudis, Bahrainis, and the Omanis, as well as Kuwait and even Etihad, have turned the long haul screw on Emirates dominance.

In the local environment low cost carriers are cutting into shorter flights.

And that’s what this is really about. Provide a wedge of seats on an aircraft that’s got nothing better to do because of over capacity on long haul, and under capacity on short-haul.

Emirates long term plans have now changed. The A380 is, ultimately, out, and the 787/A350 and A330neo along with the 777-9 are in.

Flexibility is what counts and that, regrettably is not what the A380 was ever for or particularly good at. It works in all the right ways flying to all the right places, but it doesn’t work everywhere.