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Emirates' flight plan could include L.A.

January 07, 2008|Peter Pae

Sheik Ahmed bin Saeed al Maktoum, 49, the uncle of the ruler of Dubai and the chairman of the world's fastest-growing airline, is credited with turning the tiny Middle East emirate into a major air transportation hub. Ahmed sat down for an interview with The Times while visiting Houston to launch the carrier's second U.S. route.

Now that you're making inroads in the U.S., do you have any plans to start a service to Los Angeles?

We are thinking about the West Coast and where we should be flying to. We always say Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and one other point when we talk about opening more routes in the U.S. It's just a matter of which will come first and getting the aircraft with the range.

What was the impetus for starting the airline?

While the region has a lot of oil, Dubai itself has a limited supply so we had to diversify the economy, and the idea was to develop tourism. The vision was to make Dubai a hub in the region as a way to promote tourism. But you need the tools to do that, and we were thinking about the airline as a way to provide that connectivity.

Airlines typically open routes where there is demand. But Emirates seems to do the opposite. What is the thinking behind it?

I remember before we started service to Australia, for example, nobody used to go to Australia or Australians didn't come to our part of the world because everybody thought we were off-route. But since we began flying there, lots of people are going to Australia [from the Middle East region] and lots of people from Australia are coming to our part of the world. I think this is what we are trying to achieve with our operations in North America.

Does Emirates have any plans for transpacific flights?

I think in the next 10 years, things will happen. Then you'll see something like the old Pan Am, a truly global airline. Not many airlines will be able to do that.

-- Peter Pae

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