United Arab Emirates (UAE) carrier Emirates Airline has revealed plans to launch two additional daily flights to the United States during the second half of this year, including the launch of the first non-stop services between the Middle East and Orlando. The expansion, which will also see the introduction of a second daily rotation to Seattle, is sure to intensify the rivalry with the US majors who have been seeking a freeze on Gulf carrier growth in the US while they seek to address what they suggest is an imbalance in the current Open Skies agreements.
The introduction of a daily Emirates link between Dubai and Orlando will bring an estimated $100 million economic impact for Central Florida, according to Frank Kruppenbacher, chairman of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority that runs Orlando International Airport. He described the arrival of the UAE carrier as “the biggest move forward for our airport and this community.”
Emirates will introduce the daily link from its Dubai International Airport hub from September 1, 2015 and will utilise a Boeing 777-200LR on the route configured with eight first-class, 42 business class and 216 economy-class seats.
"This is a landmark new route for Orlando that for the first time offers our customers non-stop service to the high-growth Middle East region with convenient connections to India, China, Africa, and Southeast Asia," said Phil Brown, executive director of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority.
Orlando International Airport, with 35 million annual passengers, is the second busiest airport in Florida and 14th busiest in the US. It generates an estimated $31 billion in direct and indirect revenue for the regional economy. It ended 2014 handling over 35 million passengers, up 2.7 per cent on the previous year, buoyed by record levels of international passengers (over 4.3 million, up 9.6 per cent on 2013), which now account for approximately 12.3 per cent of all traffic at Orlando International.
“Orlando is one of the world’s premier leisure and conference destinations, a dynamic business centre and a destination which Emirates has long wished to serve,” said Sir Tim Clark, president, Emirates. “As a growing region, we believe that our service will facilitate further growth for both Orlando as well as Central Florida by connecting the city with our global network of 145 destinations across 80 countries;
Alongside the new Orlando service, Emirates has also opened reservations for a second daily flight between Dubai and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport from July 6, 2015. The additional rotation will be operated by a 777-200LR and will complement the existing daily 777-300ER flight already established on the route. The new flight will arrive and depart the US city in the morning and will provide additional connection opportunities via Emirates’ Dubai International Airport hub.
The two new daily flights make a powerful stand from Emirates in its ongoing dispute with the largest carriers in the US and Europe. In a reaction to accusations from the US majors on illegal state subsidies and unfair practices, Sir Tim Clark has said it is American consumers, international gateway airports, local and regional economies, and businesses that will be the ultimate victims of the protectionist campaign being run by Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, and United Airlines.
His comments followed meetings with officials at the US Department of Transport, State Department, Department of Commerce, and National Economic Council, where Emirates’ President presented the airline’s perspective on the three airlines’ campaign, which has taken more than two years to compile.
According to Clark, all the debate about what constitutes a subsidy, what is fair or unfair competition under whose laws are just distractions from the real issue at hand – which is that the three biggest US carriers, who together with their joint venture partners already control about two-thirds of international flights from the USA, want to further limit the international air transport choices available to American consumers, airports, local and regional economies.
“Consumers should be asking Delta, American, and United why they are amongst the most profitable airlines in the world, but nowhere close to being ranked best airlines for service or product,” said Clark.
“Airports, tourism boards, chambers of commerce and businesses, should be asking regulators and legislators why valuable, direct international air links - which are so important for businesses and critical for tourism, should be limited only to a few airport hubs served by the big three US carriers and their joint venture partners with whom they co-ordinate prices and capacity under anti-trust immunity,” he added.
Emirates has progressively grown its services to the US. From seven flights a week between New York JFK and Dubai in 2004, Emirates currently flies 84 flights each week from nine USA gateways – Boston, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington DC. Orlando will be its tenth destination in the US when flights commence in September 2015. The estimated annual economic value of Emirates’ services to these airports and their surrounding regions according to local data is US$2.8billion.
Emirates’ flights carry travellers from the US to 56 destinations in Africa (18 points), Asia Pacific (25 points) and the Middle East (13 points) which are not served by any American carrier, via a one stop strategy in Dubai. The high average seat load factors of over 80 per cent in 2014 on its US flights demonstrate the customer demand for the services, with the carrier quick to note its growth has been based on rational commercial demand.
“Open skies between the USA and UAE have been hugely successful for US consumers, trade and the overall economy. There should be no reason for the US government to do a freeze or a U-turn, just to protect the interest of a narrow few and their European joint venture partners,” said Clark.
“Last year a record 75 million international visitors came to the US, stimulating the economy. President Obama’s goal is for that figure to rise to 100 million by 2021, and Emirates is pleased to be helping make that goal a reality,” he added.