(Entry originally posted on March 25, 2015 with additional information on the inaugural flight on July 5, 2015) Emirates announced that it will add daily flights to Orlando International Airport (MCO) in Florida, US starting September 1, 2015 and expand service to Seattle. This entry will discuss the new destination, the flight facts/paths for these destinations and where Emirates should expand next through new operations and additional service.
Orlando will be the tenth US and eleven North American destination served by Emirates (The Middle East airline also operates to Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ) three times a week using an Airbus A380).
Here are the flight path and facts for this new route on the Boeing 777-200LR:
It is not surprising that Emirates chose Orlando as its first leisure US destination to serve. Although it is only ranked 26th in the US most populated metropolitan area, the city is home to many sites including the Disney and Universal Studio theme parks which attract many tourists from the Middle East. It is also within driving distance to Tampa (18th largest metro area) and is the closest city by distance to play hosts to key US family attractions outside of Dubai. Lastly, it is the only destination served directly by a Gulf carrier (A reader correctly commented that Saudi used to fly to MCO).
The Boeing 777-200LR is used because this aircraft has the most range in the 777 series (refer to our post on the Boeing 777-300 series for information) and is certified to land in MCO. The Airbus A380-800 has not received certification as the airport does not have facilities to handle normal operations.
Additionally, JetBlue Airways is operating a secondary hub in Orlando which will feed passenger traffic from various South American destinations to this flight. Follow this link for more discussion how JetBlue is working together with Emirates.
Emirates also announced that it will be increasing its service to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) with a new daily flight using a Boeing 777-200LR (the same aircraft used for the Orlando service noted above). This will increase weekly capacity by 3,724 seats between these two cities on direct flights (which can be used for the Seattle and Vancouver areas).
Given it has two flights in Seattle, perhaps Emirates should consider it as the next destination for a dedicated club (Refer to our post on its third club just opened in Los Angeles, California).
Future Growth Opportunities
Large US Metropolitan Areas not Served by Emirates Currently
We mapped out the list of top 20 US metropolitan areas not currently served by Emirates in the following infographic (Ontario Region in California is not mapped because it is served by Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)):
As noted by the infographic, there are three top 10 US metropolitan areas not currently served by Emirates. They are Philadelphia (Home airport: Philadelphia International Airport (PHL)), Miami (Home airport: Miami International Airport (MIA)) and Atlanta (Home airport: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)). Of the three, only MIA and ATL are Airbus A380 certified for passenger operations today.
Gulf Carrier Operations
Next, we check competitions from other gulf carriers (Qatar Airways (QR), Etihad Airways (EY) and Saudi Airlines (SV)) to these areas. Although these airlines all serve key US cities such as New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington DC, only Qatar Airways has operations to any of the unserved top 20 metropolitan areas (Philadelphia and Miami with new service to Atlanta starting in June 2016).
US Carrier Operations
Of all the major US carriers with international operations (American Airlines (including US Airways), United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue Airways and Southwest Airlines), United Airlines operates flights to the Gulf via its hub at Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) and Delta Air Lines operates flights to Dubai via Atlanta.
Given relatively little competition from both Gulf and home carriers, Emirates has a blank canvas to further expand into the US. The major obstacle it will face is finding airports that are certified for A380 operations. With that taken into consideration, the following is top 3 list of airports Emirates would likely introduce service in the next 6-12 months:
- Miami is the top candidate as it can accommodate Airbus A380s. It also has a large population and receives feeder traffic from Central and South America as well as the Fort Lauderdale area. Fort Lauderdale is becoming a very popular tourist destination and if you plan on visiting, you could stay at the Holiday Inn Express near FLL Airport.
- Atlanta can also handle double decker operations. Additionally, it is the no.1 busiest airport by passengers for more than 5 years. The carrier can also pick up passengers from nearby Southeast cities.
- Philadelphia is currently a US Airways hub. As it is being merged with American Airlines in Spring 2015, flights might be streamlined which might increase connection times. American Airlines also does not fly to the Middle East currently. Emirates can use the opportunity to pick up passengers going to key Asian cities like Bangkok, New Delhi, Mumbai and Hong Kong as the travelling time is relatively the same going eastward or westward (22-30 hrs).
Based on flight loads, Emirates should also consider expanding services to these cities:
- Washington DC – To pick up passengers from Baltimore which is the 20th biggest metropolitan area in the US.
- Chicago – To pick up passengers from St. Louis and Milwaukee.
- Los Angeles – To pick up passengers from Southern California including Ontario and San Diego (both rank in the top 20 most populated list).
July 5, 2015
To celebrate its arrival to the Orlando International Airport (MCO) on September 1, 2015, Emirates will operate a one time flight using its double decker Airbus A380-800 aircraft. MCO is one of the first US based airports to be A380-800 aircraft ready. Three out of its four runways (17R/35L, 18L/36R, 18R/36L) have more than the minimum length requirements for the aircraft to depart.
With this announcement, is the airline foreshadowing its plans to operate the double decker there?
While Emirates is the leader in routes and capacity between the US and the Gulf area, it still has significant amount of opportunities to grow. Most of these opportunities are in the eastern region of the country. In a future post, we will examine how US carriers can manage competition from Emirates and other Gulf carriers.