MEB3 – Qatar and Etihad still envy Emirates’ sheer scale and scope

Europe has retained its #2 region status for Emirates, thanks to it starting routes like its daily Warsaw service, which began on 6 February. Since last conducted this regional analysis of MEB3 routes in February 2011, Europe has also taken second spot for Etihad Airways, displacing the Middle East.

From time to time, likes to cast its eye over the respective networks of the MEB3, now an accepted industry term, used of course to group the combined might of Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways. Indeed, it has been over two years since we last looked at these particular metrics.

With each airline, and indeed their home hub airports, seemingly locked onto an insatiable aircraft, route and therefore capacity growth trajectory, these three airlines still have the capacity to excite most of the world’s airports in terms of the potential passengers each of them can bring. While most of the network planning community has clear idea of the bragging rights; Emirates being #1, followed by Qatar Airways and then Etihad, comparing their relative size is still a useful exercise.

Emirates’ fleet still has 60% more seats than other MEB3 members

An analysis of the passenger aircraft fleets for all three carriers reveals several interesting points:

  • Emirates still has more passenger aircraft (189) than Qatar Airways and Etihad combined (180). The gap of nine aircraft has been maintained since this analysis was last completed in February 2011.
  • Emirates only operates widebody aircraft, while Qatar Airways and Etihad both operate Airbus A320-series aircraft which currently comprises 39% (+3% since February 2011) of Qatar Airways’ fleet and 29% (+1%) of Etihad’s fleet.
  • The average number of seats on an Emirates aircraft is just over 360 (+11 seats since February 2011, in part thanks to still being the only one of the three carriers operating the A380), with both Qatar Airways (+13 seats) and Etihad (+3 seats) also increasing this metric too.
  • The total fleet seat capacity of Emirates is almost 60% greater than that of Qatar Airways and Etihad combined. The gap has narrowed slightly, with the Doha and Abu Dhabi-based airlines clawing back 1% on their rival in this regard.

The table below summarises the fleets of all three airlines, listing the number of aircraft of each type and the upper and lower limit of the number of seats in each aircraft type.

Aircraft Type Emirates Qatar Airways Etihad Airways
Airbus A319-100LR 2 (110) 2 (106)
Airbus A320-200 31 (144) 17 (136)
Airbus A321-200 12 (177-195)
Airbus A330-200 23 (237-278) 16 (228-272) 16 (262)
Airbus A330-300 13 (259-305) 6 (203)
Airbus A340-300 5 (267)
Airbus A340-500 10 (258) 4 (240)
Airbus A340-600 4 (266) 7 (286)
Airbus A380 33 (489-517)
B777-200/ER/LR 19 (266-346) 9 (259)
B777-300/ER 99 (354-442) 22 (335-380) 14 (330-412)
B787-8 5 (254)
Total 189 114 66
Source: 15 May

Asia leads Europe in terms of weekly seat capacity

Analysis of the networks for all three carriers reveals how focused the carriers are on different regions of the world. Looking at weekly departing seat capacity by geographic region (but excluding departing capacity from each airline’s home base) reveals that all three carriers have most seat capacity assigned to routes in Asia. This fact remains unchanged since conducted the same regional seat analysis back in February 2011.

'MEB3' Seat Capacity Weekly seat capacity by region excluding home base

Source: Innovata 8-14 May 2013.

Other observations include:

  • For Emirates, and now Etihad, Europe is the second biggest region, but for Qatar Airways, the Middle East takes second place. For the Abu Dhabi-based hub carrier, this represents a switch in the region’s importance since this analysis was last performed.
  • The Middle East region is the only one where the combined weekly seat capacity of Qatar Airways and Etihad is greater than Emirates. In the February 2011 analysis, the much smaller Latin American region also managed this feat. However since then, Emirates now operates daily services to Buenos Aires and Sao Paulo Guarulhos, and double daily to Rio de Janeiro, and as a result it has managed to climb above Qatar Airways (Etihad has not operated flights to this region in either analysis period, but it will start thrice-weekly services to Sao Paulo Guarulhos on 1 June), which operates just daily to Buenos Aires and Sao Paulo Guarulhos.
  • Emirates’ weekly seat capacity is around 53% higher than Qatar Airways and Etihad combined – which has climbed from 40% last time around (probably largely due to the arrival of 18 extra A380s over the past two years). This is less than the 60% difference in total fleet seat size as Qatar Airways and Etihad both operate more regional (shorter sector) services as a proportion of their total network, but the gap has narrowed significantly over the last two years.
  • Asian route capacity accounts for between 34% and 37% on all three carriers’ networks (Last time, range was 34-37%)
  • European routes represent between 23% and 27% of each carrier’s total weekly seat capacity. (Last time, range was 22-23%)
  • African routes represent between 7% and 12% of each carrier’s total weekly seat capacity. (Last time, range was 8-12%)
  • North American routes only represent between 3% and 5% of each carrier’s weekly seat capacity. (Last time, range was 3-5%)

Etihad planning five more new routes this year

In terms of new routes announced for the next 12 months, according to’s New Route Database, Etihad leads the way with five, including its first to South America. However, the remaining two-thirds of the MEB3 are not far behind with four apiece, including Qatar Airways’ recently announced daily operations to Philadelphia, PA, due to start on 2 April 2014.

Launch date Airline Origin Destination WF Aircraft
15-May-13 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi (AUH) Amsterdam (AMS) 7 A332
01-Jun-13 São Paulo Guarulhos (GRU) 3 A346
15-Jun-13 Belgrade (BEG) 7 A319
01-Sep-13 Sana’a (SAH) 4 A320
01-Oct-13 Ho Chi Minh City (SGN) 7 A332
22-May-13 Qatar Airways Doha (DOH) Salalah (SLL) 4 A320
03-Jun-13 Basra (BSR) 4 A320
20-Aug-13 Sulaymaniyah (ISU) 4 A320
02-Apr-14 Philadelphia, PA (PHL) 7 B773
03-Jun-13 Emirates Dubai (DXB) Tokyo Haneda (HND) 7 B77L
04-Sep-13 Stockholm Arlanda (ARN) 7 B773
01-Oct-13 Clark (CRK) 7 B773
01-Oct-13 Milan Malpensa (MXP) New York, NY (JFK) 7 B773
Source: New Route Database


  1. Abhijith says:

    Hi Guys, some minor corrections:-

    EY’s A319s seat 106 not 110 passengers and EY’s A320s seat 136 not 140 passengers.

    Also QR operates one all-economy A321 (195Y).

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