Emirates recently increased its capacity between Dubai and Washington Dulles by replacing the Boeing 777-300ER with a double-decker Airbus A380. This is in response to United Airlines pulling out of that particular market after JetBlue (which codeshares with Emirates) won a recent government contract. Emirates is the largest customer of the A380 and has been using them to expand service in many other markets, too. Los Angeles will be getting its second daily A380 from Emirates in July.
So if the A380 is heading to Washington, DC, why don’t we see it in Seattle, Washington? Emirates announced a codeshare agreement with Alaska Airlines late last year, and it operates twice daily service with a Boeing 777-200LR and a Boeing 777-300ER. It sounds very similar to the IAD and LAX situations.
Except that for all the aviation buzz around here, the airport is just too small to operate an A380 with regularity. The large wingspan would require closing down an adjacent runway and some taxiways for safety reasons. It would also take up two gates. To be clear, the A380 can land at Sea-Tac if it needs to, but it would be a major inconvenience.
This puts Emirates in a bind. It can replace the 777-200LR with another 777-300ER, but after that there is no way to grow unless it adds a third flight. Given how popular Emirates is with some of Alaska Airlines’ customers, I can imagine we’d all love to have the A380 show up. It’s not just the first class suites and onboard shower but also the lie-flat business class cabin. On both 777 models Emirates offers only an angled flat seat in business, and it has a 2-3-2 configuration that makes aisle access more challenging.
For now, at least, I’ll continue to connect somewhere like Los Angeles or San Francisco before I travel on Emirates using my Alaska miles.