Emirates Considering Athens To Chicago Route (Update: Not Accurate)

Filed Under: Emirates

Update: This story was written based on a news story quoting an Emirates executive. However, Emirates has now told me “Emirates has no plans to launch services between Athens and Chicago. The original story was incorrectly attributed.”

Emirates is apparently considering adding a fourth fifth freedom flight to North America, which would also be their second from Athens.

Emirates’ fifth freedom flights to North America

As it stands, Emirates operates three fifth freedom routes to North America (these are routes between two countries that don’t include the carrier’s home country):

  • Milan to New York, using an A380
  • Athens to Newark, using a 777-300ER
  • Barcelona to Mexico City, using a 777-200LR

While the Barcelona to Mexico City route was only recently launched, Emirates has had success with the other two routes.

Emirates considering Athens to Chicago flight

Greek media is reporting that Emirates is considering adding an additional fifth freedom flight from Athens, with the frontrunner being an Athens to Chicago flight. This is according to Emirates’ Country Manager for Greece and Albania, Khalid Al Zarooni:

“Athens is an important destination for Emirates, because of its strong tourism, culture, but also because of the business relationship between the UAE and Greece.

The Athens – New York route is a great success story for us.”

Emirates currently operates a daily flight between Dubai and Chicago using a 777-300ER, so I would imagine the Athens route would be in addition to this one, in the event that it’s added.

For what it’s worth, American launched a seasonal daily Chicago to Athens flight in the summer of 2019, and it’s being brought back in 2020, so I guess it performed at least as well as expected.

Chicago has the third biggest Greek population in the US (after New York and Boston), and of course Greece is an incredibly popular tourist destination in summer. On top of that, apparently Emirates does well with cargo on their existing Athens to Newark flight.

I wouldn’t count on this route happening

While it’s cool to hear that Emirates is considering this route, I wouldn’t necessarily expect it to come to fruition. Emirates seems to constantly consider additional fifth freedom flights to the US, though most of them don’t end up happening:

  • Emirates had been considering launching flights from Budapest to the US, given that MALEV went out of business, and at the time there were no nonstop flights between Hungary and the US (in the meantime Hungary has become a popular seasonal destination for US airlines)
  • Emirates had been considering launching flights from Hamburg to New York, which would actually be the resumption of a route that Emirates operated back in the day

With the Open Skies agreement Emirates can add an unlimited number of fifth freedom flights to the US. The only roadblock is getting permission from local governments for slots (which has been an issue in Germany, for example). That’s unlikely to be an issue in Greece, though, as they no doubt welcome any transatlantic connectivity.

You can of course expect that if Emirates does launch any additional fifth freedom flights, the “big three” US airlines will whine endlessly about the unfair government subsidies that Emirates receives, which allows them to do revolutionary things like install TVs and power ports on planes. 😉

Bottom line

It would be awesome to see Emirates expand their fifth freedom flying to the US, and an additional Athens route sounds awesome, especially given how little service Greece gets direct from the US.

Emirates isn’t really into seasonal routes, or else some more US to Greece flights in summer seem like a no brainer. The Athens to Newark flight even seems to work for them year-round, though, thanks to a combination of passenger demand and cargo.

What other fifth freedom flights would you like to see Emirates add to the US?

  1. What about Chicago to Milan?

    I’m hoping to take the family to Greece in the summer so I hope it comes to fruition!

  2. Correction required: from Hungry to Hungary. (in the meantime *Hungry* has become a popular seasonal destination for US airlines)

    Also, the link you gave has expired. However, it is there in the Internet Archive.

  3. Ugh I really hope this doesn’t happen. Emirates would be unfair subsidized competition to AA’s service. You like to make fun of the US big three whining about Middle East three subsidies, but at a bare minimum Emirates does receive tax free deeply discounted fuel and gets free airport space and no landing fees at its hub in Dubai.

  4. I am shocked that Emirates doesn’t add a flight, fifth-freedom or not, to Detroit. Detroit has the largest Middle Eastern population in the United States. Or if not Emirates Turkish.

  5. This is not just an US3 problem, but an UK/EU3 as well.

    When you refer to the ME3’s “revolutionary things” should that also include Etihad’s drastic about-face and the causes for why that occurred?

  6. Seems like a lot of additional capacity for DXB-ATH.
    If the Brandenburg airport ever opens, I’d think that Berlin would make for a very mutually beneficial EuroHub for Emirates TATL routes.

  7. I want a Orlando – Barcelona route! Or from Atlanta to anywhere in Europe “to rub salt in the wound of Delta” 😉

  8. @FNT Delta Diamond my thoughts exactly. So many people from India and the Middle East in the Metro Detroit area. I feel like this is an easy money grab for Emirates or Turkish.

  9. @FNT – I would imagine Royal Jordanian absorbs the majority of the middle eastern population of Detroit as they’re primarily Jordanian, Lebanese and Palestinian and taking Emirates would mean overshooting the destinations by about 5hrs, layover then 5hr flight back.

  10. As an ORD based flyer I would welcome this with open arms. The prices for the AA ORD-ATH seasonal flight are absurd. I’ve yet to see an economy fare under 1000 RT. AA is price gouging on this flight.

  11. @The nice Paul… you are technically correct, probably, that EK would pay taxes and fuel costs on ATH-ORD. However Sam’s original point is still valid: that EK’s revenue is unhindered by costs US airlines encounter, because of subsidies from the UAE.

    The “whining” of the US3 will be nothing compared to the whining of all you travelers when US carriers are forced out of markets and these subsidised ME carriers are the only game left in town.

    But then again when there are so many commenting “oooh! I wish they would add XXX-YYY as a 5th freedom flight!” I shouldn’t expect any type of long-term vision.

  12. Those pathetic airlines in the U.S. and Europe only jump up and down because they know they can’t compete on quality and service with the Asian and Middle Eastern carriers. Ironically, they then lobby their respective governments – who they’ve shunned on a business level and attempt to skirt tax payments – to try and force the far superior competition out. Go Emirates – hope you hammer AA on this route!

  13. @Rob, you might be whining, but the rest of the world will be celebrating when those junk-heap U.S. airlines leave the market with their uncompetitive products and filthy service! I also hope you don’t support the billions of dollars given to them when they all went bankrupt (which they took off their employees and never paid back)…

  14. @Sam – most airlines received preferred treatment. In the US they all receive tax breaks which are also a form of subsidy. In Germany, the government fights with teeth and claws to keep competitors away from LH Group. The UK government axed plans for an additional runway and terminal at LHR, although it is unclear here if BA used their influence, they certainly were fighting against it because it would’ve opened more slots for competitors… at the end of the day the US3 are being hypercritical imo. At the very least, the Middle Eastern airlines would help to slow down the race to the bottom for TATL Basic Economy which is starting to get out of hand.

    @Aaron – presumably AA and UA because it would affect their hub. However, Delta likes to cry the loudest despite their record profits.

  15. @Dennis, I’m curious if you fly those junk heap airlines yourself, and if so, why? Probably because they offer the cheapest fares. That is the reason even junkier (IMO) ULCC airlines stay in business.

    I don’t want to say deregulation and increasing competition among carriers is the only problem, but it did contribute. Especially when it stimulated an unrealistic expectation of high service from an increasingly entitled customer base.

    It is much easier for a start-up airline to provide the service demanded when that airline doesn’t have to pay legacy costs that come with longevity: i.e. labour costs, maintenance, etc.

    And that’s nothing compared to the advantage the billions in subsidies from a ME government would provide!

    And while it’s true bankruptcy takes money from the labour groups, that’s nothing compared to the money it costs other creditors. But the auspices of bankruptcy allows airlines to negotiate contracts under the guise of what the current market may support, which are unrealistic fares for longer flights and better service.

  16. Unless I’m mistaken, Royal Jordanian’s service from Detroit isn’t daily. I believe it stops — or it did stop — in Montreal too.

  17. @Rob
    “However Sam’s original point is still valid: that EK’s revenue is unhindered by costs US airlines encounter, because of subsidies from the UAE.”

    Alas, that much more nuanced take wasn’t Sam’s original point. He was contrasting the hungry US3 free marketeers (I paraphrase), with those evil ME subsidy-grabbers. But the US3 are rolling in subsidies, whether from tax breaks in Illinois to cash payments from airports as start-up incentives to cash payments from government for “socially necessary” routes to cross-subsidy from military spending (which was what the WTO found them guilty of).

    The US3 grab as much subsidy as they can get their claws into.

    What are you talking about? The U.K. government has NOT axed plans for a 3rd runway at LHR. LHR is owned by a private company, which wants the runway (and will pay for most of it). The U.K. Parliament has approved it in principle. Most of the current users are against it because, like BA, they can extract monopoly rents from the scarcity of slots.

    Though whether it will ever get built is a different question.

  18. @Rob, I’m fortunate to live in a part of the world (Australia) where I don’t have to step foot on any of the U.S. or European carriers. I have the world’s best airlines flying into my home city to take me anywhere I desire. When forced to, for example on a U.S. domestic flight, I chose Delta (and they broke our luggage). However to be honest, when my wife and I lived in the U.S., we actually drove our car extensively to avoid it, and I’m talking back and forth across the country. Same in Europe- I take the train or drive. Lucky we have the time to do so.

    Another point regarding the pensions those airlines took from those employees when they went “bankrupt”, perhaps it would be wise for pensions to be held by a third party organisation, and independent of the company?

  19. @Rob, interesting! I do see why Americans are generally against taxation and why yhe system is set up the eay it is. Because unfortunately, your government takes the tax and doesn’t do anything meaningfully good with it. I’m safe in the knowledge my retirement benefit (mandatory for companies in Australia to pay, and separate to the government old age pension by the way) will be safe until retire and no company has any control over it.

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