February 23rd, 2012
02:56 PM GMT
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Dubai, UAE (CNN) – The Middle East’s airlines are venturing into new markets, connecting the region with new and distant destinations.

Emirates Airlines is making its mark on international aviation. Launched in 1985, it's one of the fastest-growing airlines in the world, with a fleet of 169 planes serving more than 100 destinations.

At the heart of its success is a strategy that looks east, actively targetting emerging markets that are often unserved by Western carriers.

Tim Clark – the airline’s president - has been instrumental in mapping out those routes. “I don’t think we contemplated then in the late 80s what we are doing today as regard to the emerging markets,” Clark told CNN’s Leone Lakhani.

“As these economies started to energize … you saw the rise of the middle classes in those areas and with that came demand for travel, not just for business – there was a lot of that – but for travel to see the rest of the world.”

Thriving in the untapped markets of South-East Asia, Africa and Latin America, Emirates quickly took off. It's now the largest operator of the A380 Superjumbos.

Dubai has never been blessed with the oil riches of its neighbours, but it has been one of the main ports in the Persian Gulf for centuries. Now the government has put aviation at the heart of its growth strategy, not just by launching Emirates, but by supporting and expanding Dubai's airport.

Dubai airport is the world's fourth-busiest international airport, with passenger numbers growing at a rate of more than 15% each year. Greater traffic through Dubai's airports brings more people into the city, boosting the overall economy.

“Today the aviation sector, which includes the airport, is 25% of the GDP of Dubai,” said Clark.

The Emirates Airlines story is serving as the template for the region's two other main carriers, Etihad and Qatar airways, whose ambitions are equally grand.

"We are fortunate to be in the heart of a region that has over three billion population just within a five-hour radius of our hub,” says Akbar Al Baker, CEO of Qatar Airways.

Abu Dhabi's flag carrier, Etihad, has services to more than 80 destinations. It plans to expand its existing services to China and already flies to Beijing, Shanghai and Chengdu.

Together, the three airlines are spreading their routes from the Middle East to the far reaches of Asia and Africa.

soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. M Hatch

    The airlines mentioned in this article put American airlines to shame. I work in the Middle East, and the only reason I will take an American airline in their place is because of routing.

    February 23, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
  2. Bilen

    I can't wait to see them on the top of their business. These people they are building their country in front of our eyes. Hope the rest of the world to learn from them.



    February 23, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
  3. rav

    Emirates and other UAE based airlines are the BEST, i have travelled with so many airlines for business and no one can compete with Emirates, i am based in US and i don't fly American or United, not that i am not patriotic, its just there service is crap, i travel first all the time and i expect First class service, there stewardess are old, no sense of humor. Emirates and Etihad all the way

    February 23, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
  4. Mark

    Is this a news story? It certainly reads like a paid COMMERCIAL. CNNI is really no better than those late night infomercials. Except it's worse and they try to disguise it as news.

    February 23, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
  5. Rob M

    I agree with the above. I work in Saudi and Qatar and both the Middle Eastern countries and their airlines are performing extraordinary in terms of development. You look at the infrastructure and you feel you have moved 100 years in the future compared to US & Europe, you look at airlines and their services and its like you've moved 200 years into the future. Last time I travelled with emirates, I didn't wanna leave the plane.I went back to UK this year and all I saw was an atmosphere of depression, a still reigning sense of superiority and utter ignorance about how far ahead the rest of the world has gone. I say let them and Far East rise and we will be forced to let go of benefits, overpaid wages and get along once again with the development.

    February 23, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
  6. Hi

    Definitely paid by EK to publish this article. A lot of airports are busier than DXB.

    February 23, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
  7. dfdsfd


    February 23, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
  8. Gary

    Flown Emirates from Houston to Dubai...Crew friendly, food outstanding, aircraft impeccable. Try finding that on an any American Carrier. The flight attendants were coming by with snacks once every four to five hours...Treated like a King, even though i was flying coach. Have to admit Emirates has taken commerical aviation to a new level.

    February 23, 2012 at 9:12 pm |

    best airline so far.

    February 23, 2012 at 9:55 pm |
  10. Cynthia

    Sound like a paid advertisement for the Middle East and Emirates. I flew there 777 in coach and the seating was awful...It was 3-4-3 on a 777. I will not fly them again across the world! It is also is nice to be funded by a walthy Middle East government full of oil money! When will Obama get us off oil so we can quit supporting these regimes?

    February 24, 2012 at 12:29 am |
  11. Simon

    It's a well known fact that US airlines are awful, especially when compared to Emirates or other international airlines.

    February 24, 2012 at 2:31 am |
  12. James

    Cynthia, do let ignorance, hatred and bigotry consume you. Which regime you are on about, here?

    February 24, 2012 at 4:12 am |
  13. rsmnr

    Emirates pays highly subsidized price for fuel and negligible airport taxes at the hub, which is a main reason why other airlines can not compete with it.

    February 24, 2012 at 5:48 am |
  14. Peter

    Emirates are miles ahead of the crappy US carriers – and they don't have any Oil revenues in Dubai, just a idea to bring flying to a new level of service and quality. The US still think they're the best at everything .... they're the only ones who think so. A great place to visit and nice people (The US), just time they woke up and saw the rest of the world rushing by.

    February 24, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
  15. Aref from Yemen

    Its our time guys, west down, middle east up.

    February 24, 2012 at 2:47 pm |

    thats a gud progress frm them.

    February 24, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
  17. David

    Riding a U.S airline is a McDonalds experience and even the smaller carriers in developing countires do better when it comes to food, drink and comfort. When these travellers get a taste of middle eastern carriers theyll realise what a joke their own airlines are.

    February 24, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
  18. cmw

    Flew Qatar in coach from DC to Doha and was very impressed. Great service, spotless plane, comfortable seat: 3-3-3 on a 777, decent food and free booze.

    February 25, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
  19. Bobby

    I would rather take a Greyhound bus than taking Delta or United. I normally fly coach, but the level of service that I received from Emirates has always been outstanding compared to European airlines. American carrier should go rethink their strategies.

    February 25, 2012 at 9:05 pm |
  20. Rams

    I would llike to ask Cynthia how much she was paid to write bad about Emirates. I am sure Emirates would take her comments also in a most positive way.

    I congratulate Emirates and Ethihad on their superlative acheivements

    February 26, 2012 at 5:25 am |
  21. sameh

    See the elephant is dying and die a very sad situation


    February 26, 2012 at 8:34 am |
  22. DJ

    For those who think this is nothing but advertising , I say why don't you fly with them then make a comment or let me ask you
    Have you taken shower on 30000 feet ,or sit by the bar or have you own cabin to rest?
    I have flown Business and firs class with American airlines and I tell you I will trade my business class with their coach .
    Honestly watch all the movies you want any time you want or drink as much as you want but in US airlines pay $6 buck for a beer.
    Simply with regret they have the best airline and best service

    February 27, 2012 at 1:47 am |
  23. beenthere

    I have flown Emirates and American Airlines from Houston to Dubai and would never recommend American Airlines. I have flown from Houston to Dubai 6 times on Emirates and American once and would spend the extra money every time to fly Emirates. The food, service, planes, and atmosphere was by far better on Emirates. I have also flown on Qatar Airways and would recommend them just behind Emirates.

    February 28, 2012 at 4:16 am |
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