Emirates is engaged in a long-term plan to service at least 20 cities in the United States; it is now halfway toward that goal. On March 24, the airline announced new service from Orlando International Airport (MCO) to its Dubai (DXB) hub, effective September 1, 2015.
EK219 DXB – MCO will depart at 3:50 a.m. and arrive at 11:40 a.m.
EK220 MCO – DXB will depart at 2:20 p.m. and arrive at 12:30 p.m., the next day
The flights will operate daily using a Boeing 777-200LR with eight first-class suites, 42 business class lie-flat beds, and 216 economy class seats. Orlando is the top connecting market for the airline’s New York flights and flying direct to Central Florida will add connection options with JetBlue Airways, its code share partner and an airline with a large offering in Orlando. This is Emirates’ first service to Florida and the southeastern U.S.
The new Orlando service comes on the heels of its announcement of a second daily flight to Seattle-Tacoma (SEA), beginning July 1, 2015. This is special in itself because Seattle will represent the only other airport besides New York-JFK to offer more than one flight per day (SEA does not and cannot handle the large-capacity Airbus A380 like several other U.S. airports that Emirates serves daily). Just like Orlando, there are connecting opportunities with another code share partner, Alaska Airlines, at its main hub in Seattle. Emirates has been serving SEA for three years and its existing flight is currently served with a Boeing 777-300ER. Starting this summer, it will be complemented by the new flight, which will use the slightly smaller Boeing 777-200LR.
EK 227 DXB – SEA will depart at 3:15 a.m. and arrive at 6:55 a.m.
EK 228 SEA – DXB will depart at 9:40 a.m. and arrive at 10:55 a.m., the next day
This second flight also adds additional cargo capacity of 12-15 tons to be transported from Washington state where Boeing manufactures its B777, to Dubai which is one of the largest cargo hubs in the world.
The news of added frequency to Seattle comes on the heels of the opening of a new, dedicated lounge for Emirates’ first and business class passengers, as well as Platinum and Gold members of its frequent flyer club, at Los Angeles International Airport’s Tom Bradley International Terminal. It offers seating for up to 157 customers with an open buffet of gourmet dishes and complimentary full bar service. The airline invested $6.7 million to construct the lounge, which has luxurious architecture and furnishings, including Italian marble floors and Gold Rolex clocks.
Emirates’ aggressive expansion (and to a lesser extent, that of Qatar Airways and Etihad Airlines) into the U.S. has not gone unnoticed by the big three U.S. carriers (American Airlines, United Airlines, and Delta Air Lines). In the last decade, Emirates has acquired new Boeing 777 and Airbus A380 aircraft (it is the largest customer of both) and increased its number of flights from its global hub at Dubai International Airport. A growing faction of airlines and trade groups, including the U.S. big three, claims that this expansion in both aircraft and airports served by the Gulf Carriers is backed by unfair subsidies that are offered by their respective governments; the claim is denied by each, including Emirates. Regardless of one’s viewpoint on the matter, Emirates’ focus on acquiring large capacity aircraft for its operations, coupled with its new announcements in the past week – especially the introduction of service to Orlando, considered to be a high demand yet low-yield tourist market – signifies that this airline’s growth follows a non-traditional path that is admired by many, and a cause for concern for others.