Emirates Wants To Add US Routes, Including To Secondary Cities

Filed Under: Emirates

2017 was a rough year for the Gulf carriers when it came to their US route network, in particular due to the short-lived electronics ban that the US imposed on select airlines. This made it undesirable for many people to fly with the Gulf airlines, since it meant checking laptops, cameras, etc. The new immigration ban didn’t help either.

As a result, we saw Emirates greatly reduce capacity to the US on some routes, including canceling the second daily flights that were operated to Boston, Los Angeles, etc.

Some of that capacity has been restored since, though not all routes are back to 2016 levels. We also haven’t seen Emirates grow their US route network all that much lately, with the exception of a Newark to Dubai flight, though that came at the expense of a New York to Dubai flight, and led to a net capacity reduction (since the route is operated by a 777, while the previous route was operated by an A380).

As reported by Brian Sumers at Skift, it looks like Emirates may soon be adding some more US service, and this expansion could come in a few forms.

So, what kind of US expansion could we see from Emirates? According to Emirates President Tim Clark:

  • Emirates is considering restoring the second daily frequencies to some destinations, including Boston and Los Angeles
  • Emirates is considering expanding into some smaller US markets, though Clark refused to comment on which ones specifically, noting that if he were to reveal it “suddenly everyone is rushing off to Washington to stop us from doing it” (this is in reference to the “big three” US airlines constantly attacking the Gulf carriers)
  • Emirates isn’t ruling out adding more fifth freedom flights to the US; Clark notes that they get pitches from European airports for such service all the time, but they “don’t do it for the sake of doing,” and “if there’s an opportunity there, if they’re underserved markets and if the incumbent carriers don’t take it and if we have the air service rights to do it, then why wouldn’t you do it? It’s a commercial decision.”

One of the unique things about Emirates is how consistent their fleet is, as they operate just Boeing 777s and Airbus A380s. This is a blessing and a curse, since it means they’ve been able to scale their route network in a way that no other airline has (like 10 daily flights between Dubai and London, nine of which are operated by A380s), though this also makes it tough to expand into smaller markets, since they have so much capacity.

Emirates is solving this problem regionally by working more closely with FlyDubai, which operates a fleet of 737s that can serve some airports that Emirates can’t (both for commercial reasons, and due to actual airport limitations).

Emirates has also placed an order for 40 Boeing 787-10s, which they plan to start taking delivery of in 2022. The challenge is that this is the shortest range version of the 787, so it wouldn’t be able to fly nonstop to the US.

However, Emirates has the option of converting some of these plane orders to 787-9s, which would have the range to fly to the US, and have a better chance of making routes to secondary markets feasible.

Clark is quoted as saying:

“Imagine the 787-9 going into some of these cities or even the 777-8X. It’s still a big airplane, but it’s not a 380. You’ve got much more [appropriate] capacity for fitting the demand for these second or third-level tier cities than you might have with a A380.”

Bottom line

I wouldn’t expect any immediate US capacity increases from Emirates, in particular due to the runway maintenance happening at Dubai Airport next summer, which is causing route reductions (fortunately that’s a slow travel period anyway).

Beyond that, I’ll be curious to see how Emirates chooses to adjust their US service. I could see them adding some additional 777 frequencies to Boston and Los Angeles within the next year or two.

I think what’s going to be most telling is what happens in a few years, when Emirates takes delivery of the 787. If they keep the order exclusively for 787-10s then we won’t see any of them flying to the US due to range (at least not nonstop from the UAE), though if they convert the order to include some 787-9s, that seems like more rational capacity to offer to some US markets.

What kind of expansion do you think we’ll see from Emirates on US routes?

  1. The Hungarian government/Budapest Airport is lobbying since ages for a DXB-BUD-(insert a US airport here), without succes so far. LOT started flying BUD-JFK this year with its Dreamliner, and load factors have been surprisingly good. I wouldn’t be surprised Emirates would start seriously considering a stop in Budapest, knowing they don’t have competition from a local carrier.

  2. @PeterCS I believe Bucharest/OTP would be a more suitable choice both because they miss direct US routes & have a legacy carrier that could feed such flights, but not big enough to operate the routes itself

  3. Clark is a senile old drunk that just needs to shut up and go home already. He had the chance to leave on a high note a couple years back, but is instead now leading Emirates into some very dark times. flydubai can’t be adding that much value to the US beyond some small African markets not served by EK and the former CIS area. Without India handing over an Open Skies agreement to the UAE, Emirates is in a bind with poor fleet decisions based on hope instead of reality and pricing that makes Norwegian look like a legacy these days.

  4. @PeterCS I believe Bucharest/OTP would be a more suitable choice both because they miss direct US routes & have a legacy carrier that could feed such flights, but not big enough to operate the routes itself

  5. My guess would be DTW. Seems odd that none of the Gulf 3 (and Turkish for that matter) operate flights to Detroit considering Metro Detroit has one of the largest populations of middle eastern people in the US.

  6. Apart from the expansion plans in US, would Emirates be expanding their presence in Canada like to Vancouver or Calgary since Canada-UAE has signed a new air transport agreement?

  7. +1 Micah

    As a Canadian, I’m curious to see if the government will ever allow Qatar to fly to Toronto? Recently, they permitted Etihad & Emirates to fly 5 times a week to Toronto and nowhere else, but nothing for Qatar. All 3 airlines have stated they’d love to fly to various cities here and in high frequencies.

  8. Detroit is the obvious choice. Doesn’t Detroit’s metro region have the largest Middle Eastern population per capita outside of the Middle East?

  9. C’mon BUF.
    Since the govt insists on subsidizing Air Canada with protectionism, BUF, perhaps with a shuttle service across the border, would really rub it in.

  10. I agree with @chub on PIT. If PIT can do a PVG-PIT they can do DXB-PIT.

    My bet would be on PDX, SAN, or SJC, seeing how EK go for FLL over MIA.
    Now if we talk about using 5th freedom through Europe , I can’t even think where the possibility ends.

    Or he could just follow QR footsteps and try to piss DL by flying into ATL.

  11. Emirates seems to offer really good first class fare out of South Africa. (Johannesburg to London roundtrip for $3,500 USD). Any idea if there’s a catch with these (e.g. must be booked in South Africa)?

  12. They should add a fifth freedom flight with a stop in Europe from Atlanta. Atlanta has the most overpriced international flights to Europe or Asia in the USA.

  13. Wake me up when start flying to Kansas City lol. Realistically they could try Detroit, Minneapolis, Atlanta, Fort Lauderdale, and Philadelphia.

  14. I’d like to see tag end flights such as DXB-BOS-DTW or DXB-SEA-SMF. Of course, passengers couldn’t be ticketed just on the domestic portion but maybe SMF-SEA EK connecting to SEA-TPE BR might be ok.

    TWA and Pan Am used to do tag end all the time, such as JFK-IND-SDF (TW) or JFK-MSY-SAT (TW) or JFK-MSP-SLC (PA)

  15. DTW would serve an Arab population, but Royal Jordanian has a direct flight via YUL.

    YVR would make sense given its partnership with AS and heavy South Asian travel. Same with YUL.

    Also on the topic of AS and South Asian, nonstop SJC?

    PHL and ATL I’m not sure they could fill sufficiently. But then again the ME3 loves sending planes for vanity, so even MEX could be in the mix by next year.

  16. One fifth freedom route, if rights are available, is Berlin to the U.S. – unbelievably under served. Other possiblities are Hamburg-US, Stuttgart-US, Nuremburg-US, Maastricht-US, Liege-US, Bremen-US, Saarbrucken-US, Antwerp-US, Rotterdam-US, Leipzig-US, Hanover-US, Bremen-US, Dresden-US, Lyon-US, Bordeaux-US, Bristol-US, Belfast-US, Athens-US, Naples-US, Cardiff-US, Catania-US, Cologne-US, Essen-US, Salzburg-US, Torino-US, Birmingham-US, Brussels-US, Rennes-US, Marseille-US, Valencia-US, Seville-US, Alicante-US, Malaga-US, Trieste-US, Florence-US, Toulouse-US, Aalborg-US, Malmo-US, Newcastle-US, Leeds-Bradford-US, Goteborg-US, Genoa-US, Bologna-US, Lublijana-US, Basel-US, Strassbourg-US, Luxembourg-US. All in common: Well off populations, population centers. More cities in Europe should have North America direct service to alleviate grossly overcrowded hubs of Frankfurt, Dusseldorf, Milan, Munich, Paris, London, Brussels, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Venice, Madrid, Barcelona, Rome, Zurich, Vienna, Manchester.

  17. The U.S. is fine, but I would be more interested if Emirates were to do two things:

    1. Expand service in China and S-E. Asia. EK flies to tiny Yinchuan, but doesn’t serve big cities like CTU, CKG, HGH and SZX. QR flies to all these cities except SZX. Even the struggling Etihad serves CTU.
    Similarly, the likes of Krabi and Da Nang are too small for Emirates’ 777 and too far for flydubai’s 737, and QR has captured these markets for itself. In a few years’ time EK might send its 787-10 to these places.

    2. Support a small European airport (like BUD, above) and give LOT a run for its money by sending its far superior 777 on a route like DXB-BUD-JFK. BUD in particular will benefit. The likes of OTP, LJU, etc. do have flag carriers (however small) which are also members of airline alliances. BUD has only W6, a ULCC.

  18. @Kevin: YVR is a major transpacific hub, and YUL is served by QR, so if the Canadian government is a little more willing, Emirates might want to start either YVR or YUL at Eithad’s expense (EY will have to reduce YYZ from 5x to 3x weekly).

  19. Chris R

    Are you insane? Rotterdam? liege? Basicly everything you list here are glorified llc holliday airports. Most of them cant even handle a widebody airplane. Antwerpen isnt even served by 737’s i believe, and shares its parking lot with a supermarket…

  20. Do you think there is a possibility one of the secondary US cities is PHX!? I sure hope so! We need more international flights.

  21. I can see ATL and DTW as viable options. I expect that whatever routes they add, this will be done way ahead of the Expo 2020, since Dubai is hosting.

  22. @Yreal: Yes, I am aware of restrictions with Antwerp, Rotterdam, Maastricht et al. What I did not say is that these and other airports must undergo expansion to enable long haul routes/aircraft. The main point, again, is to alleviate the now unbearably overcrowded and suffocating mega hubs in W. Europe. I’ve traveled most of them: AMS, LHR, FRA, BRU, CDG, FCO, CPH, MUC, MXP, VIE, ZRH, DUS. All within the last 7 years, some more than once during that period. I first flew commercial into FRA in 1962 on a 707. I’ve seen the changes. Flew first time to MXP in 1968. The issue is to bring a limit to the megahub insanity. It’s too much.

  23. Need Emirates in Detroit (dtw) . Lots of Middle East population, also all Indian travelers will benefit from connecting at Dubai.

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