2017 was a year shaped by political and economic uncertainty and tempered optimism around the world. For Emirates, it came down to converting challenges into opportunities and continuing to find avenues for growth.
The year began with a number of operational challenges: along with continued capacity restrictions in our Dubai hub, the new US administration imposed a number of short-dated changes including the cabin electronics ban, and new security guidelines for travel.
Commercially, significant pressures were placed on our yields with increasingly tougher global competition. The US government imposed travel restrictions also adversely impacted demand for travel into the US, causing us to reassess our frequencies and capacity. On the economic front, global economic volatility and political instability throughout the course of the year continued to curtail the trading landscape.
But we are no stranger to turbulent conditions, and we are not an airline that lets things take care of themselves. We took a number of measures to firmly counteract external impacts, working closely with all stakeholders to ensure we continued to deliver excellence in the customer experience. We also rolled out initiatives across our business to curb costs, introduced new ancillary revenue streams, increased our digital capabilities and simplified our workflows to improve our revenue and profit performance.
Our profits at the close of our 2016/17 financial year were weighed down, however much credit goes to our workforce whose commitment to turning things around has today helped us stand on a much stronger footing. Through 2017, the rise in fuel prices added to our costs, but on the flip side also given the global economy ‘a shot in the arm’, offering a renewed sense of confidence in the global business landscape.
Over 22 aircraft have been delivered and we ended the calendar year with 270 aircraft serving 156 destinations. We added five destinations to our A380 network in 2017, and have boosted A380 services to routes all over the globe. In a single day in March, we launched three A380 destinations: Tokyo-Narita, Casablanca and Sao Paulo. The triple deployments heralded the first scheduled A380 services to Latin America and North Africa.
While some have claimed that Emirates is facing growth-limiting barriers around the world, we are actually expanding our business. We continue to grow our European offering with the launch of Zagreb, and we’ve expanded operations into other key cities. On the back of commercial demand, we have also progressively developed our operations into China and into emerging South East Asian economies like Cambodia. The US continues to welcome international carriers through its Open Skies policy, in spite of the distorted campaigns and aggressive lobby employed by the three big US airlines. We will continue to seek opportunities that help us capture future growth, unlock new markets, and provide valuable air connectivity to travellers and economies. Protectionism rhetoric may continue, but it will not stem our progress and future ambitions.
Our partnership with FlyDubai is an intelligent harmonisation of our strengths, optimising both of our networks to grow our footprint, and maximising our commercial opportunities by offering unique city pairs that tap into new traffic flows. Since the start of our partnership, bookings have grown in an exponential manner and more developments will be coming over the next 18 months. We also announced the extension of our partnership with Qantas until 2023, with network changes that will yield greater year-round frequencies and more services to Australia. Both partnerships enable us to offer more travel choices for our customers, and give us more flexibility in how we deploy capacity to match demand and maximise our revenue.
Our order for 40 Boeing 787 Dreamliners at the Dubai Airshow will round-off our Boeing 777 and A380 fleet, providing us with efficient operating economics, and flexible seat density to serve a range of destinations to support our expansion plans well into the next decade.
Alongside our fleet milestones, we continued to leverage innovation and push the design boundaries to maintain our industry leading position, putting the customer at the heart of everything we do. We received our 100th A380, the flagship of our fleet, and made major multi-million dollar enhancements to one of its most iconic features, the Onboard Lounge. The Boeing 777-300ER, the backbone of our fleet, made world headlines when we introduced completely refreshed interiors, including our highly-anticipated First Class fully-enclosed private suites. The Boeing 777 refreshed cabins ‘upped the ante’ in the industry and have raised the bar for consumer expectations.
Looking ahead into 2018, we are seeing a rebound in the global economy. Air cargo is already enjoying double digit growth, and for our industry it’s a litmus test for forthcoming passenger demand. Emirates SkyCargo is taking its business further by investing in state of the art infrastructure, and sophisticated solutions that cater for growing verticals like temperature sensitive pharmaceuticals, fresh produce, and precious cargo. SkyCargo also tied up with CargoLux and this partnership will boost our operational, capacity and network capabilities.
Our digital and business transformation projects are playing a big role in our long-term strategic growth trajectory. We are advancing new initiatives and working on technologies that connect to the customer journey and drive our business growth. We’re also tapping into the expertise of our innovation eco-system partners such as Carnegie Mellon, Oxford University, Dubai Future Accelerators, and The Aviation X-Lab, and we have made considerable progress in delivering new solutions.
We move forward into 2018 with a renewed sense of confidence in the global market environment, and more importantly, we continue to create a robust foundation for our future ambitions as an airline. In all we do, our strategy remains intact – we will focus on our own organic growth, connect city pairs that make commercial sense for tourism and business, while delivering the best value-for-money experience for our customers.