Emirates Airline will open its 10th US station in September 2015 with scheduled service to Orlando, operated daily on a 777-200LR aircraft. Thirteen months have passed since Emirates unveiled plans to launch Chicago service, which went live in August 2014. Typically, Emirates averages 4-6 months between disclosing a new US route and the inaugural flight, whereas its primary competitors, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways, tend to range between 6 and 12 months when announcing new routes.
Orlando will be Emirates’ first foray into the Southeastern US, although not the first for a major Gulf carrier as Qatar Airways launched service to Miami in June 2014. Whereas Qatar Airways’ rationale for commencing service to Miami had OneWorld alliance implications, as it is a major hub for OneWorld founding member American Airlines, Emirates’ logic behind Orlando is to tap into the tourism market as it is home to numerous theme parks and visitor attractions.
Orlando is a strong international origin and destination market and attractive to foreign carriers
Orlando airport sees approximately 138,040 International seats per week, which represents roughly 14.7% of the overall passenger makeup. Purely from a concentration standpoint, this overall share is higher than that of Atlanta (12%) and Dallas/Ft. Worth (13%), although the actual number of international seats offered from both Atlanta and Dallas/Ft. Worth are higher than at Orlando. Still, given that both the metropolitan regions of Dallas/Ft. Worth and Atlanta are much larger than that of Orlando, the percentiles are nevertheless impressive.
Although Orlando lacks a formal hub carrier, with market share fragmented among Southwest as the largest (30.2%) followed by Delta (14.3%), American (13.8%) and JetBlue (12.2%) the airport punches above its weight class in terms of its foreign carrier count. The airport sees scheduled service from 23 foreign carriers offering flights to 6 destinations in Europe, 18 in Latin America and 17 in Canada.
Recently, the airport has attracted attention from numerous European and Latin American carriers with the additions of LAN Peru, Gol, Azul, Norwegian, Thomas Cook Airlines and Icelandair (which is moving its services fro Sanford airport to OIA this summer) as well as increased frequencies from Virgin Atlantic and TAM. Emirates will fill a unique role serving as the only Asian/Gulf carrier to offer scheduled flights into Orlando. However, it will not be the first Middle Eastern carrier to fly to Orlando as Saudia Airlines briefly operated flights into OIA via New York JFK in the late 1990’s and early 2000s.
Emirates’ market entry to Orlando will have minimal impact on European carriers that presently serve MCO. Orlando receives scheduled service from Aer Lingus, British Airways, Icelandair, Lufthansa, Norwegian, Thomas Cook and Virgin Atlantic. None of these are likely to be impacted by Emirates’ entrance to the Orlando market as they do not compete for the same types of traffic. Emirates will likely siphon away some spillover traffic from Qatar Airways’ Miami operation that sent traffic on OneWorld partner American to Orlando from the Middle East via Doha.
It would be logical for Emirates expand codeshare agreements with jetBlue on Caribbean routes with new Orlando route
Emirates’ Orlando operation is scheduled for a noon arrival into Orlando and an early afternoon return to Dubai, which will permit connection opportunities on JetBlue flights out of Orlando to connect onwards to markets in Puerto Rico, the Caribbean and Mexico. Emirates and JetBlue presently offer extensive codeshare agreements on JetBlue-operated flights out of Boston, Los Angeles, New York JFK, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington Dulles airports. JetBlue also places its code on Emirates’ flights from Dallas/Ft. Worth, Houston, Los Angeles, New York JFK, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington Dulles tO Dubai and from New York JFK to Milan. It is therefore conceivable that Emirates and JetBlue will further expand codeshare agreements in the months prior to the inaugural flight.
Emirates proposed schedule into Orlando
EK219 DXB0350 – 1140MCO 77L D
EK220 MCO1420 – 1230+1DXB 77L D
The “arms race” between the Big Three Middle Eastern carriers is back in gear and Emirates still has the lead
2014 represented a major year of growth for the Middle Eastern carriers (plus Turkish) with the four various carriers launching ten new routes throughout the 12 month period, as well as up-gauging capacity on several pre-existing routes. 2015 has been off to a slower start as the market slowly absorbs the proliferation in seats.
Emirates still maintains the lead serving virtually every major international airport in the U.S. with the exceptions of Miami, Atlanta and Newark. However, one could argue that Miami is already covered by Qatar Airways, Delta offers a nonstop service to Dubai from Atlanta and Newark is outshadowed by New York JFK serving the same metropolitan region.
Detroit continues to be excluded from the guest list despite boasting a large Middle Eastern population and ethnic diaspora. Purportedly, it was on the high list for Turkish and Qatar dating back as far as 2012, but little signs have shown that those developments will materialize.
In a similar fashion, the Big Three have also expressed interest in expanding further into North America, but outside of US borders. Canada continues to be a challenge as all three countries (Turkey, Qatar and the UAE) have maxed out their bilateral agreements and cannot expand further unless restrictions are relaxed. Meanwhile, airports in South America have proven challenging with restricted landing rights at certain airports, aircraft range issues and/or dealing with high-altitude markets that require technical stops en-route to the Middle East.
It remains to be seen how the ME3 continue to react towards the growing antagonism they are facing on U.S. soil from vocal CEOs of US airlines on the accusations of receiving unfair government subsidies to operate loss-making routes. As much as competition is embraced by consumers for lower airfares and wider flexibility, naturally, resentment will grow among the suppliers.