Emirates New York To Milan Flight Canceled?

In October Emirates added a third daily frequency between Dubai and New York, though unlike their two other nonstop A380 frequencies, this one is operated by a 777-300ER and stops in Milan in both directions. It’s not that the plane couldn’t fly Dubai to New York nonstop, but rather they’re trying to tap into the lucrative US to Europe transatlantic market.

The New York to Milan route was previously operated by Alitalia, American, and Delta, and I suppose it’s hardly surprising that they didn’t like the added competition from Emirates. Not only does Emirates hugely increase capacity on the route given that they have 354 seats on their 777-300ERs (the other carrier operate smaller 767-300s and A330s), but they also have a first class product, which none of the other airlines in the market have.

Emirates first class

It appears as if this route may be at risk, due to a complaint filed by Assaereo, which represents Alitalia. Per the Wall Street Journal:

An Italian court on Thursday moved to block a new route opened by Dubai-based Emirates Airline between Milan and New York following protests from rival carriers that the service contravened international aviation laws.

Thursday’s ruling, by an administrative court in Rome, was a response to a complaint filed by Assaereo, an association that represents Alitalia and other Italian airlines. The trade group filed the suit last year against the Italian Civil Aviation Authority, which granted Emirates permission to start the service. Assaereo claimed that the Milan-New York flight broke the bilateral air-service agreement between Italy and the United Arab Emirates.

It’s not clear as of yet whether the route will actually be canceled, or where things go from here. I’m far from an expert on the law, let alone international law, but I also find it kind of odd that Emirates has been able to operate the route for so long despite supposedly violating a major bi-lateral air agreement. You’d think Alitalia, American, and Delta would have tried to stop it from the get-go.

This service offered by Emirates kind of seemed like the “next big thing” for the Middle Eastern carriers. These “one stop” routings through lucrative European hubs have significant advantages for the airlines, so it’s no wonder they’re trying to tap into these markets:

  • There are substantial fuel savings from operating two (roughly) seven hour flights vs. one fourteen hour flight (on ultralonghauls you end up burning a lot of fuel just from the weight of carrying the additional fuel), and it also allows you to maximize cargo.
  • While you can sell it as a “direct” flight all the way through, it’s also a great opportunity to maximize yields and load factors on the individual segments.
  • It allows airlines to tap into otherwise lucrative markets aside from their hubs.

In 2012 Qatar Airways announced their intention to fly from Athens to New York, though it seems that they’ve changed their mind on that in the meantime.

Emirates was also considering similar routes through other European gateways, so it will be interesting to see what comes of this…

Filed Under: Emirates
  1. Lucky, maybe Assaereo did try to stop it when it started, but it just took this long to work its way through the bureaucracy and the court system. I imagine those are just as slow in Italy as they are here, maybe even slower.

  2. as a consumer, it’s great to have another cheap flight and award redemption option.

    but the flight was never about saving fuel. it has always been about siphoning traffic from incumbents (AZ, DL, AA, UA from EWR).

    NYC-MXP already has 4 carriers from 3 alliances. There’s no shortage of competition and choices that can boost the argument for EK.

  3. Emirates route authority is valid for 18 months. The route is safe through spring 2015. The ruling says that Emirates cannot renew the authority.

  4. The ruling actually sets a very dangerous precedent and should almost certainly be overturned if appealed high enough. The US and EU rely on a lot of international goodwill to approve the anti-trust immunity agreements of major EU/US carriers and bilateral open skies agreements that the US has pioneered (such as the one with the UAE) are the driver of this goodwill. If this degenerates into a tit-for-tat battle, this could set a lot of alliances and regulatory regimes back a decade.

  5. I think it is very doubtful that EK can be successful on this route. A few years ago, they have already tried a one-stop, from Dubai to JFK via Hamburg / Germany. The flight was discontinued because there were simply not enough passengers and the competition with the former Continental was very hard. Good for the passengers – bad for the airlines.
    Although Milan is a larger market, but the competition is even tougher.

  6. Emirates used to have a JFK-HAM-DXB flight a few years ago in addition to having two nonstop JFK-DXB flights back before the great recession. After the introduction of the A380 in 2008 and the great recession, EK stopped the JFK-HAM-DXB route. I do not recall the Germans or EU having an issue with the JFK-HAM flight back then though.

  7. @Joey : HAM-NYC was only served by CO back then (HAM-EWR, and I think with a tiny 752). HAM-JFK as an airport pair was completely unserved. So EK’s service actually was incremental and beneficial.

    Contrast that to NYC-MXP, where there are 5 airlines from all 3 alliances including EK.

  8. I have no doubt alitalia’s new partner etihad is pushing this as well. Alitalia will never be profitable so of course they will stop this. Bad for consumers and worse for the Italian people who have to support Alitalia.

  9. Interesting…
    I flew the MXP-DXB flight on EK recently and I have to say it was an interesting flight.
    Boarding began 2 hours later, occupancy on that part of the flight wasn’t high at all (probably about 40%) and mostly it had an akward time (redeye).
    We boarded passing through business class and I have to say: not impressed at all. It looked more like premium economy than business. It had 2-3-2 angle-flat seats.

    So yeah, a pretty strange route in each case.

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