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A few weeks ago, we reported how a pilot shortage is forcing Emirates to cut flights. During the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, airline group CEO Tim Clark told reporters that the airline would be short-handed by about 100 to 150 pilots.

Emirates has generally tried to downplay the situations, with Sir Tim saying that the airline is “a tad short in pilots” but that the pilot numbers should be “alright by September or October.”

However, unconfirmed reports paint a much bleaker picture: the airline plans to store 46 aircraft, due to a drop in demand as well as a pilot shortage. Emirates operates a fleet of 253 total aircraft, consisting solely of Boeing 777s and Airbus A380s. Storing nearly 20% of the fleet would be a massive reduction in capacity.

While that number, 46 aircraft, is not confirmed, our research shows that Emirates aircraft are starting to fly en masse into storage. Over the last five days, five Emirates aircraft have landed at Dubai’s Al Maktoum International Airport (DWC) — which is primarily a cargo airport at this time — and haven’t left.

Arrival at DWC (local time) Aircraft Type Tail Number Seats
02 May 12:47 PM Boeing 777-300ER A6-ENZ 360
02 May 12:09 PM Airbus A380-800 A6-EDL 517
30 Apr 2:40 PM Airbus A380-800 A6-EEZ 519
29 Apr 12:28 PM Airbus A380-800 A6-EOO 519
27 Apr 1:03 PM Boeing 777-300ER A6-EGZ 360

Source for flight and aircraft location information: FlightRadar24. Source for seating capacity: PlaneSpotters

These five new additions join other Emirates aircraft already on the ground at DWC, which include at least:

Arrival at DWC Aircraft Type Tail Number
1 Apr 2018 Boeing 777-300ER A6-EMT
27 Mar 2018 Boeing 777-300ER A6-EGF
4 Mar 2018 Boeing 777-300ER A6-EBI
1 Mar 2018 Boeing 777-300ER A6-ENU
28 Feb 2018 Boeing 777-300ER A6-EGO
26 Feb 2018 Boeing 777-300ER A6-EBL
26 Feb 2018 Boeing 777-300ER A6-ENT
25 Feb 2018 Boeing 777-300ER A6-EGS
30 Jan 2018 Boeing 777-300ER A6-ECT
16 Jan 2018 Boeing 777-300ER A6-ECP

Source for flight and aircraft location information: FlightRadar24.

There could be a simpler explanation for some of these aircraft being on the ground at DWC. Perhaps Emirates is performing retrofits or maintenance checks on some of these aircraft. However, the sheer number of aircraft currently at DWC seems disproportional to normal operations. TPG contacted Emirates about this situation but has not received a reply at the time of this publishing.

What does this mean for travelers? If you’re flying Emirates soon, prepare for potential schedule changes due to reductions in frequencies. Some destinations that have multiple flights a day could see reductions in the number of flights per day, while once-daily flights could become 4-5x weekly flights. That said, this seems to be coming at a time of light demand for Emirates. So, the reductions in frequency might just increase the loads on flights rather than requiring that passengers be bumped.

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