(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) Emirates, the world's fastest growing airline, has ruled out any plan to acquire stakes in India's struggling carriers even as Etihad Airways, another UAE flagship carrier, continued its negotiations to acquire a stake in Jet Airways, a leading player in India's domestic aviation sector.
Thierry Antinori, Emirates' executive vice-president for Passenger Sales Worldwide, said the Dubai-based carrier, which is now flying to 126 destinations with the launch of services to French city of Lyon, is only keen to acquire more aircraft rather than looking for an airline acquisition.
"We have no intention as of now to look for stakes in any other airlines. Our focus is on expanding our fleet and route network across the globe," Antinori told Khaleej Times as Emirates' inaugural flight touched down at Lyon Airport as this city of 2.6 million people prepared to celebrate the annual Festival of Lights.
Most of the Indian carriers, including embattled Kingfisher, have been making huge losses and are looking for foreign direct investments to prop up their flagging fortunes.
On Emirates' ongoing efforts to win landing rights for its superjumbo Airbus A380 at Indian airports, Antinori said discussions have been going for the past several months, and "we are optimistic of getting the go-ahead to operate A380 to Indian cities."
He said there was no progress in Emirates' talks with Canadian authorities for boosting its capacity from three weekly flights. "It is a sad story. We could have given Canadian citizens better products and services with increased frequencies."
Antinori said Emirates would report a double-digit growth in profit when it closes the financial year in March next year.
"We have reported a robust growth in net profit during the first half of the year, and we are confident of showing a double-digit growth when we close this year," he said on the sidelines of a Press conference at Lyon Airport.
The airline's new route to this French city of gastronomic delights is the airline's third destination in France and fourth new European destination since the start of 2012, a year that saw the carrier expanding network across the globe by adding 15 new flights in line with "a concentrated and sustained of global expansion drive".
With the addition of Lyon, the third busiest airport in France, Emirates boasts a route network of 126 destinations.
Antinori said after recording one of the fastest growth rates in network expansion in 2012 by adding 15 new services, the airline would moderate its pace next year as it would be taking delivery of less number of aircraft in 2013.
The airline currently has a fleet of 190 aircraft, and has 210 on order worth 62 billion. It has the world's largest Boeing 777 and Airbus A380 fleet.
In early 2013, the airline will launch new services to Warsaw on February 6 and Algiers on March 1.
Antinori said Emirates, in line with its balanced East-West expansion programme, would continue to make forays into new markets while boosting capacity in existing markets.
Lyon Airport, serving 8.5 million passengers per annum, is Emirates' third point in France after Paris and Nice. The carrier will operate five weekly flights to this vibrant economic and tourism centre of south eastern France.
"Our commercial footprint in France has increased steadily since our first service to Paris in 1992. Since day one we have invested significantly in France operating state-of-the-art aircraft and facilitating quick connections through Dubai to our global network. Today, Emirates operates 31 flights per week between France and Dubai up from three weekly flights in 1992, further underpinning our long-term commitment to France," said Antinori.
Philippe Bernard, CEO of Aroports de Lyon, said more Gulf carriers would soon launch direct flights to the city. Qatar Airways and Etihad are in the process of adding Lyon to their network. Already, two Arab carriers, Royal Ari Moroco and Air Arabia, operate flights to this city from Morocco.
"Emirates' new service to Lyon will increase the number of international destinations accessible from Lyon considerable," said Bernand. "The new service will provide Lyon will an excellent link to the airline's hub in Dubai, in addition to its global network. Lyon-Saint Exupry has strong development potential in terms of both passenger traffic and freight activity which make it the perfect partner for Emirates."
Serviced by an Airbus 340-500 in three cabin classes, Emirates' flights to Lyon offers a total of 258 seats, including 12 First Class Suites, 42 seats in Business Class and 204 seats in Economy Class. The addition of this new Emirates service will see an overall capacity increase of 12 per cent in France, further boosting the airline's presence in this important international market.
"Our extensive destination list and all wide-bodied fleet will ensure that traffic in both directions is well stimulated. The strong interest and support in Emirates from the people of Lyon and the surrounding provinces is an excellent marker of the success we expect from this new destination," added Antinori.
Business traffic to and from Lyon is expected to have a strong tie to the city's banking, pharmaceutical and biotech industries which have helped to make the Rhone-Alps region, which Lyon is the capital of, Europe's sixth-largest economy.
For the leisure traveller, Emirates' new flight to Lyon opens the doors to the city's highly lauded culinary delights. A significant number of Michelin starred restaurants are housed in Lyon, testament to the city's moniker as the "food capital of the world".
Emirates' presence in France has grown considerably this year with a capacity increase in Nice due to the introduction to a Boeing 777-300 and Paris Charles De Gaulle preparing for a double daily A380 service from January 1, 2013.
Emirates passengers in Lyon will also benefit from the airline's recently launched frequent flyer partnership with easyJet that allows Skywards Miles to be redeemed for flights on easyJet across Europe.
Emirates SkyCargo will now have a weekly capacity of more than 1,000 tonnes spread across the belly-hold of 31 return passenger flights serving Paris, Nice and Lyon. Demand is expected for a variety of commodities going into Lyon such as leather products, clothing, textiles, pharmaceuticals and electronics, while machine and electronics parts, and pharmaceuticals will be transported in the other direction.
Emirates flight EK81 departs Dubai every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 2:55pm, arriving in Lyon at 7:40pm the same day. The return journey leaves Lyon at 9:00pm and arrives in Dubai at 6:15am the next day.