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What Happened To Emirates’ Airbus A330 Aircraft?

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Emirates is known for being the world’s largest operator of Airbus A380s and Boeing 777s, but there was a time when its fleet was more diverse. Between 2000 and 2016, Emirates also owned Airbus A330-200s. But they disappeared as quickly as they arrived. What happened to its old Airbus A330-200 fleet?

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An Emirates A330-200 in 2011. Photo: Craig Sunter via Wikimedia Commons

The A330-200s flew at Emirates for 16 years

Emirates owned a substantial fleet of 29 of the Airbus A330-200 aircraft, which it acquired on a consistent year-on-year basis between March 1999 and September 2003. The widebodied aircraft, favoured for its personal cabin space, was used by Emirates mainly to fly routes within the Middle East and across to India.

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In 2015, Emirates announced that it would be updating its fleet by retiring many of its old aircraft and bringing in new, more efficient models. Emirates said that it would be removing 12 of its A330-200s from the fleet in 2016, inline with its commitment to cutting CO2 emissions. With more young aircraft in its fleet, Emirates said its CO2 emissions would reduce.

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Emirates A330-200 A6-EAF. Photo: Craig Sunter via Wikimedia Commons

Of the 29 Airbus A300s Emirates operated, 10 were owned, and 29 were leased. The majority went back to the owners, including to Hong Kong Aviation Capital, DAE Capital, and Avolon. But four of the leased A330s quickly found a second life at other airlines. A6-EKQ and A6-EKR went to Canadian airline Air Transnat in December 2015 and February 2016, respectively. A6-EKR and AC-EAC went to Virgin Australia in December 2010 and January 2011, respectively.

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Of the A330s owned outright, most went to Airbus Financial Services and were farmed out to other airlines from there. Two owned A330-200s, A6-EAD and A6-EAE, were scrapped in 2015. One owned Airbus A330, A6-EKW, went to Veling in 2015. From there, it found its way to Turkey’s Onur Air, where it is still flying as TC-OCL.

The newest A330 variant to make its way to Emirates

The last A330-200 to leave Emirates was A6-EAK in October 2016. That plane was sold on to Irish aircraft leasing company Avolon. They, in turn, sold it to Hong Kong Airlines in June 2018. The aircraft had been in operation for 14.5 years. According to Emirates, had flown close to 45 million kilometers over 60,000 hours. A6-EAK is now registered as B-LHB. It is still with Hong Kong Airlines but is parked.

Despite the departure of the A330-200s from the Emirates fleet, the airline clearly retained a soft spot for the A330 type. In early 2019, Emirates signed an MOU with Airbus for 40 A330-900neos (in addition to 30 Airbus A350-900s) in a blockbuster deal worth more than US$21 billion.

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Emirates signed an MOU to buy 40 A330-900s in early 2019. Photo: Emirates Newsroom

Emirates said at the time it wanted to diversify its fleet and reduce its reliance on the A380s. In addition, the airline prides itself on the young age of its planes. The A330neo order helped on all fronts.

But there has been a bit of water under the bridge for Emirates and the aviation industry since the signing ceremony. Whether the A330neo order sticks and whether we see the successor to the A330-200s at Emirates in the future is anyone’s guess.

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