Maurice Flanagan, executive vice-chairman of the Dubai-based group, says in time the Emirates fleet will exceed 450 aircraft “at least”. The airline currently has 114 passenger planes in service but has 243 long-haul aircraft on order.

The company will receive its first Airbus A380 superjumbo in the summer. It has ordered 58, as well as 65 Boeing 777s. Delivery of a further 120 Airbus extra wide-bodied A350s is scheduled to begin in 2014.

“We double in size every four or five years and have a plan currently for one A380 and one 777 every month for 58 months,” says Flanagan. “It will go beyond that. We will need more A380s. We will have about 230 aircraft by 2012 and will continue beyond that.”

Flanagan says despite the large number of aircraft on order, the company is still running short of capacity. He adds that it has no interest in becoming the world’s largest airline for its own sake.

“We do not think in those terms,” he says. “It is not an ambition. If it happens, fine – we focus on what we are doing.

“We service markets we know are there. Any conurbation with a population of 5-6 million that is a long way from Dubai is meat and drink to us.

“We are short of capacity all the time despite the new planes. We know what we are going to do with all of the planes we have ordered.”