As airlines around the world slash their networks and defer or cancel aircraft orders amid a sharp downturn in demand, Emirates has confirmed plans to expand its seat capacity by 14% in 2009 with the addition of 18 new passenger aircraft - all widebodies. Emirates Sky Cargo will increase its cargo capacity by 17% this year.
Emirates will add seven A380s, ten B777-300ERs, one B777-200LR and one B777F to its fleet next year, to add new routes and consolidate others with additional frequencies.
Chairman and CEO, Shaikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, stated "we see  as a time of opportunity", although it would be a "year of consolidation for us, with fewer new routes launched than in previous years".
Emirates' UAE rival, Etihad Airways, has also expressed cautious optimism about the outlook. CEO, James Hogan, told USA Today this week, "we are a growing business, still on the upward curve". He added, "our Business class is holding strong".
Latest data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) shows the Middle East is garnering a larger share of worldwide premium traffic as the global economic downturn accelerated in late 2008, although premium demand in the Middle East did turn negative in Dec-08.