Emirates Wants To Start Flying From Mexico City To Zurich

Filed Under: Emirates

Update: Emirates is launching daily flights from Dubai to Barcelona to Mexico City as of December 9, 2019.

Emirates operates some unique fifth freedom routes, like New York to Milan, Bangkok to Hong Kong, Sydney to Auckland, etc.


The airline has often stated that they’d love to be able to offer more transatlantic fifth freedom flights, though those flights have met a lot of opposition from the governments in both the US and EU. This is the source of the big “Open Skies” battle going on at the moment.

Furthermore, Emirates has long stated that they really want to start flying to Mexico City. In a Bloomberg article a few months ago, Emirates said that the two destinations they most want to serve are Berlin and Mexico City. Unfortunately there are hurdles to overcome with both flights:

  • Emirates can’t fly to Berlin without cutting service to other German cities, given that they’re maxed out under their current bilateral agreement
  • Due to the altitude of Mexico City (and the impact that has on aircraft performance), a nonstop flight between Dubai and Mexico City isn’t possible, at least not until Emirates takes delivery of the Boeing 777X in 2020

Well, despite the above challenges, Emirates is working hard to launch that Mexico City flight they desperately want.

Via an article in the Tages Anzeiger (in German), Emirates is petitioning the Swiss Civil Aviation Authority to allow them to start flights between Zurich and Mexico City.


Emirates presently has two daily A380 flights between between Dubai and Zurich, so this would likely complement the existing flights, rather than replace one of them.

It’s a smart idea, because historically Switzerland has been more open to fifth freedom traffic than European Union countries, which are taking a pretty strong stance against the Gulf carriers. We should find out whether or not Switzerland approves the route in the coming weeks.

I’m sure Emirates will face quite a bit of opposition from Swiss and some other local businesses, though at the same time the impact on the Swiss economy from the added service could be very positive. I guess we’ll see whether Switzerland maintains their pretty open approach to fifth freedom routes, or follows the lead of their counterparts in the EU and uses this as a starting point for more restrictive behavior.


Bottom line

If Emirates wants to start flying to Mexico City before they take delivery of their 777X aircraft, I don’t think there’s a more logical route they could choose. Switzerland has historically been to open to fifth freedom routes, and it’s also right on the way to Mexico City, so in theory it’s a great option.

It will be interesting to see if the Swiss government goes along with it, and if so, if it leads to further Emirates operations out of the airport.

Do you think Emirates will be granted authority to fly from Dubai to Mexico City via Zurich?

  1. I would guess the MEX-ZRH/ZRH-MEX segments would be a route where F was readily attainable for awards, assuming they keep the A380 on the route.

    The catch would be: no AS positioning flight on the same award because AS has dropped MEX service, has to be a cash ticket or separate award.

  2. Yes, @lucky @Jono. I do not think that EK flies SIN – AKL. They do however have a lot of routes to Auckland like SYD – AKL BNE – AKL and MEL – AKL

  3. Since LX does not serve MEX, would Swiss’ leadership really put up that much of a fight? This sounds like a brilliant move on EK’s part.

  4. Here is what I think Emirates should do.

    DXB —-> MEX. Dubai can handle a maxed out B777 with the huge runways they have. Should be no problem flying directly.

    for the return…

    MEX –> ZRH –> DXB

    If Emirates wants to carry a full payload, they have to sacrifice some fuel in order to takeoff in Hot + High conditions, then later refuelling in ZRH for the final leg.


  5. Life changing that EK does MXP-JFK! Great product plus it seems to be half the price of other airlines.

    Only catch is that only easyJet flies from AMS-MXP. What’s the deal if you’re connecting and have flight delays or something?

  6. As a MEX-based flyer (at least for international long-haul flights), I still don’t understand what is the implication (or problem) for hot-and-high airports. Can someone be kind enough to elaborate?

    I know AM can’t do the MEX-NRT and MEX-PVG non-stop, hence they need to do the stop in MTY and TIJ respectively, but why?


  7. Hot and high airports have reduced air density which means lower engine performance (slower acceleration) and less lift both of which means for a given weight you have a longer takeoff roll.

  8. One question, with Alaska transferring its only flight to MEX to AA, will this flight be bookable with Alaska miles? I thought the rules were only one partner airline per award and flights needed to originate or terminate in the US. Otherwise, very excited about this route.

  9. SYD-AKL is hardly unique to EK. Not only are there other airlines operating the route as a fifth freedom (currently LA and CI) but in the past there have been plenty of other airlines also flying this route (e.g. AR, TN, TG, GA, etc).

    Regulatory approval is necessary for fifth freedom flights, but is not of itself sufficient. There needs to be enough yield on the fifth freedom leg to support the through flight with a transit (which incurs higher costs than a theoretical nonstop and in addition may struggle with yields).

  10. @M

    And if you wonder why they can’t just make a longer runway for high and hot conditions to counter the reduced performance, the problem becomes that after a certain distance the tires would catch fire due to friction again the runway surface

  11. MEX doesn’t have any facilities to board an A380. It’ll have to be a 777 route for EK unless they want to pay for new gates. I don’t think there’s even space to park one on the tarmac. AM already has 777s that go to Europe from MEX from Terminal 2 and I believe there is also space at Terminal 1 — IB flies A340s to T1.

    Without partners, it’s not clear whether EK will be in T1 or T2. T2 is SkyTeam and T1 is most everyone else at present. T1 is much more convenient and T2 has prettier finishes.

    Still, MEX is tightly slot constrained and gate constrained. It was built for small jets serving a few million people but is surrounded by a city of 22 million now. There’s a new airport planned to be built on the only available space nearby, hanging suspended over lake Texcoco. The original opening date was 2020 but it’ll slip.

    I’m sure the airport authority will want to make room for a prestige partner like EK, though. The privileged asquerosas families of Cumbres de Chapultepec will pay for F, though it’ll be a lot cheaper than ex-US.

  12. @M

    AM does now fly nonstop to PVG and NRT with their new 787s. The longer range compensates for high and hot.

    @No Name

    It’s a moot point at MEX because the airport is surrounded by dense city. There’s no way to lengthen the runways. That’s one reason the airport is going to be replaced. The main reason is capacity.

  13. @ Owen:
    despite MEX not having “any facilities to board an A380”, AirFrance already operates an A380 three or four times a week on their daily flight from CDG since Mid-January.

  14. Saw a Lufthansa A380 at MEX 2 years ago, so A380s service that airport.

    Interesting that there aren’t facilities for it (assuming jetbridges and large enough aprons), yet the aircraft flies there.

  15. @Dan and @Frank I stand corrected. There must be new a sky bridge arrangement for it since the bird started flying in January. I don’t see how they can board one there — two 737s at a time nearly fill the T1 international gates’ seating and back up the immigration lines.

    I guess that explains why AF is sticking to T1 when the rest of ST is in T2. But if they could adjust the sky bridges, the T2 waiting area is actually big enough. And on the other hand, the immigration facility could actually be dangerous with over 600 people arriving in the hall in T2.

    There’ no evidence that LH has ever flown a 380 to MEX, though.

  16. Turkish is also looking for a solution to fly MEX. Tagged airlport could be Cancun or Havana, not sure yet though.

  17. @ Owen,

    AMX, does still stop at TIJ. I just spoke 20 minutes ago with a friend and he didn’t know that he had a layover in TIJ, he found out at check in. LOL

  18. LH use the Boeing 747-8 on the FRA-MEX route and Airbus 340-600 on MUC-MEX route to T1 at MEX. Flown on that 747-8 many times. Spectacular plane.
    KLM and British use B747-400 also when flying to MEX to T1. Both KLM and AF refused to move to T2 as long as there was no suitable cargo facility built near that site as KLM use a 747-400 Combi.
    LH may have flown to MEX as a one off, but I’m not sure about that myself.
    T1 is excellent, especially after the most recent renovations.

    T2 I’m not too fond of, especially the check in area from AM seemed very disorganised.

    I read a while ago that Turkish were thinking of adding a triangle flight IST-MEX-HAV-IST. But currently they are looking rather to cut back, considering the current situation in Turkey.

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