One option under consideration is to work closer with The Boeing Companyof the US on the development of its Sonic Cruiser, which is expected to fly just under the speed of sound. ‘Our route planning very much depends on what the manufacturers, Boeing and Airbus [Europe’s Airbus Industrie], can offer us. We are talking to Boeing about Sonic Cruiser but we would like to see the aircraft have at least a 300-passenger capacity and be capable of flying non-stop to Los Angeles. The further you go with this aircraft the bigger the cost advantage,’ said Flanagan.

The order announced last year was for 20 A380 passenger aircraft and two A380-800F (freight) aircraft from Airbus. In addition the airline placed orders for eight A340-600s and three A330-200s. A letter of intent was also signed with Boeing for 25 777-200 and 777-300 aircraft. The airline took delivery in early July of a new 777-300 aircraft from Boeing, raising its fleet strength to 39 aircraft (MEED 16:11:01, Cover Story).

Flanagan said the airline, which tapped the bond market last year to raise additional capital, has also considered launching a second dirham-denominated bond to finance its ongoing expansion. He went on to say this would be of an equivalent value and structure to the last instrument but it would be at least two years before the airline would have any requirement for the funds.

Regional banking sources say the bond could come as early as 2003, however. ‘It would be no surprise for them to be looking at this option,’ says a Dubai-based banker.