Emirates is Launching Flights to Orlando – Where Should They Go Next?

Emirates Boeing 777-200LR A6-EWA Non stop


(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).

Emirates US Network
Emirates US Network – information taken from airline’s website. Infographic created by Experience The Skies on April 13, 2015

Here are the flight path and facts for this new route on the Boeing 777-200LR:

Emirates Dubai to Orlando Plane Facts
Emirates Dubai to Orlando Plane Facts – Information taken from Emirates’ website and infographic created by Experience The Skies – March 25, 2015 (All Rights Reserved)
Emirates Dubai to Orlando Flight Facts
Emirates Dubai to Orlando Flight Facts – Information taken from Emirates’ website and infographic created by Experience The Skies – March 25, 2015 (All Rights Reserved)


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.

Other Announcement

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).

Emirates Dubai to Seattle Second Flight Facts
Emirates Dubai to Seattle Second Flight Facts – Information taken from Emirates’ website and infographic created by Experience The Skies – March 25, 2015 (All Rights Reserved)

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)):

Emirates US Growth Opportunities
Emirates US Growth Opportunities – – Information taken from Emirates’ website / Wikipedia and infographic created by Experience The Skies – March 25, 2015 (All Rights Reserved)

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).

Emirates US Growth Opportunities - Gulf Carriers
Emirates US Growth Opportunities – Gulf Carriers – Information taken from Emirates’ website / Wikipedia and infographic created by Experience The Skies (All Rights Reserved)

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.

Emirates US Growth Opportunities - US Carrier
Emirates US Growth Opportunities – US Carrier – Information taken from various airlines’ website / Wikipedia and infographic created by Experience The Skies – March 25, 2015 (All Rights Reserved)

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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:

  1. Washington DC – To pick up passengers from Baltimore which is the 20th biggest metropolitan area in the US.
  2. Chicago – To pick up passengers from St. Louis and Milwaukee.
  3. 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?

Final Call

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.

Follow this link for Emirates next US expansion.

Where should Emirates fly next in the US?

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49 thoughts on “Emirates is Launching Flights to Orlando – Where Should They Go Next?

  1. If the Canadian government would pull its head out of Air Canada’s…vested interests, YYZ would be daily and there would be daily YVR service too. Seattle was as close as Emirates could get to YVR. YYC would probably be on that list as well.

    1. You can always count on the Canadian government to put the interests of Air Canada above the interests of consumers, the travel and tourism industry, and other business interests. YVR and BC officials must be annoyed as well.

      1. Well Air Canada is starting flights to DEL and DXB this year so perhaps that’s a sign that AC is getting ready for more EK flights. Plus relations between the UAE and Canada have improved so a change in the bilateral is going to happen eventually.

        1. It might seem like the Canadian government is solely protecting Air Canada. In fact, it’s protecting all Canadian airlines from being swamped by Gulf carriers bringing too much capacity into Canada with the goal to transfer passengers through their hubs in the Middle East. It is not necessary in the government’s best interest to see Air Canada fail due to open skies agreements. As Air Canada has the means to compete using Boeing 787s, the government will likely review its air agreement with UAE / other countries and further expands traffic rights. I would not expect to see fifth freedom rights given though.

        2. Agree; I think there was a gentleman’s agreement of sorts between the Government of Canada and Air Canada whereby the GoC would wait for AC to receive 787-9s before reopening the Canada-UAE bilateral. I would look out for an announcement in Aug-Sep 2015. There is a Canadian federal election due later this year I think, so a slight nod favoring consumers might deliver a marginal number of votes.

    1. Emirates nearly always start new routes on a 77L, so whether EWR is A380-capable is not necessarily relevant.

      Note SEA going twice daily 777.

      BOS more likely than not will be twice daily 777 as well.

      If people in New Jersey, parts of Pennsylvania, etc., enjoy the traffic maze across NYC to JFK, then you have to ask why a number of carriers, including Cathay Pacific as of last year, have decided to serve both JFK and EWR.

      I would also add DTW to your list, if you are including ATL and PHL. These are, however, among the weaker US potential Emirates gateways for a number of reasons. Which is probably why they are lower in priority.

  2. Matt, great comment.
    We did not include EWR because all New Jersey and New York state passengers would likely go to JFK for their journeys to the Gulf region. Also, EWR is not equipped for A380 operations yet.

  3. jawnbc, that is the same reason why Singapore Airlines is no longer serving Canada. The extra service at Seattle is likely to pick up passengers from Vancouver.

  4. EK has said they plan to eventually have 20 destinations in the US and would like all ultra long haul routes to be served with the A380.
    Too bad the Canadian government is too stupid and are always trying to protect inefficient Air Canada, otherwise EK have said they’ve wanted to serve YYZ with double daily and YVR and YYC with daily flights.

    1. EK will have some challenges flying more A380s to the US. Other than ATL and MIA, EK is already serving all US airports certified to handle the double decker. The biggest challenge at other airports is not necessary runway length but they were not designed to have enough:
      – apron space
      – gates that have multiple loading arms
      – footprint for customs facilities
      – space between runway and taxiways

      1. Even MIA and ATL are challenging given that neither AA nor DL are willing to interline with EK. Plus QR, a OneWorld partner of AA is at MIA. As such, Emirates must have thought Miami could wait. They instead launch Orlando, a smaller market where there is no such competition, and keep out Etihad and Qatar Airways .

  5. There is a mistake in the Emirates route network. SEA is served with 1 daily B777W and another B777 soon. The route has never been served with an A380.

    1. Another mistake is that JFK is actually 4x daily, with the fourth flight via Milan Malpensa.

      1. We did not include the fourth flight initially because it was via MXP. Based on your feedback, we included MXP as a destination instead.

  6. “If you guess that Orlando is the first city served by a Middle East airline directly, you would be incorrect. Etihad Airways serves the the airport daily from its hub in Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH).”

    This is incorrect. Etihad does not currently fly to MCO. Saudi Arabian Airlines used to serve Orlando from the Middle East, but terminated that route several years ago.

    1. You are correct, Alex. Saudi Arabian Airlines used to fly to MCO.
      We also corrected the info on Etihad Airways based on new information.

  7. Miami or Fortlauderdale, since south Florida is the hotspot for tourists from across the world , so it would be better if Emirates starts its service from Miami or Fort Lauderdale.

    1. Definitely. Miami, in particular, is well suited for Emirates as it has facilities to handle the Airbus A380 aircraft.

  8. Great information, but I want to mention a few key issues this article misses.

    First, it is important to remember that Dubai (Emirates), Doha (Qatar), and Abu Dhabi (Etihad) are mainly transit airports…of course there is a good amount of origin/destination traffic, but the vast majority of passengers are connecting to other flights. This is a major reason why the US carriers don’t have a strong presence…their traffic is mostly origin/destination, since they don’t have codeshare agreements with the major carriers at these airports and few people will book separate tickets with different airlines when connecting. It is also relevant to Emirate’s new Orlando flight, which will almost certainly be carrying more connecting passengers (especially to South Asia) than travelers to/from Dubai.

    Another major issue to point out is that Orlando is a hub for Emirate’s code-share partner JetBlue and Emirates has clearly indicated that part of the reason for serving Orlando is code-share connecting flights to the Caribbean and Latin America. Of course, those destinations are much-better served from Miami International Airport, but Emirates doesn’t have a code-share partner their. Another major reason that Emirates probably chose Orlando over Miami is that Qatar Airways began service to MIA in June 2014. This may likely have reduced the potential number of passengers…combined with the presence of their code-share partner in Orlando, Emirates probably decided that the Orlando route would have better load factors than a route to Miami and better profit margins, since there’s less competition…British Airways and Lufthansa have a strong presence, offering service to some of Emirates’ destinations (but there’s less competition than Miami). The cargo market may also be an issue. Plus, airports usually give lucrative incentives for new services to regions where they want service. The aviation authority in Orlando said when the service was announced that they had been in discussions with Emirates for five years. I imagine that when Qatar began service to Miami, fewer incentives (ie. discounted/no landing fees and other tax/fee reductions) were available from the aviation authority in Miami, while at the same time Orlando had a good package of incentives for Emirates. Orlando also just began construction on a new international terminal. While it won’t be completed for several years, it was probably another factor that impressed Emirates. Orlando is ready for the A380, but there is no A380 service yet, so Emirates probably won’t have a hard time upgrading the service to an A380. Miami has several A380 services, so there may be capacity constraints there, but I couldn’t find any info with a quick web search.

    I am an aviation enthusiast and Orlando International is the closest major airport, so I was very excited to hear that Emirates will begin service here, despite that fact that I will likely never be able to afford a flight on this route. At first I was surprised, but after thinking over the things mentioned above, it did become clear that Orlando was a great choice for Emirates. I have no doubt they will one day serve Miami, but I am less optimistic that it will be soon.

    1. Correction: Orlando is a focus city (not officially a “hub”) for JetBlue, but it is JetBlue’s fourth-largest city in terms of number of flights (88/day).

      1. There has been decent growth in the Orlando Airport for JetBlue. Since the start of 2015, the New York based airline announced or introduced flights to Baltimore, Philadelphia, Mexico City,Salt Like City, and Albany and upgraded frequency to cities in the eastern seaboard. The definition of focus city vs hub is always interesting. Although flights/day is definitely a key metric to use to determine whether an airport is a hub, other factors such as the geographic location and destinations served can also be taken into consideration. While places like Wikipedia noted Orlando as a focus city for JetBlue, we believe it along with Boston and Fort Lauderdale are more used as secondary hubs. There is a new article from Center of Aviation that also support this terminology.

    2. Andrew, thanks for the great comment about the JetBlue/Emirates partnership. We touched on that in another post about the Middle East airline and Boston. You can find that discussion through this link

      As for Orlando, we are very excited to see Emirates starting operations there where it does not face direct competition from Qatar or Etihad at launch time. We suspect that the inaugural A380 flight set for Sept 1 is just a pre-cursor for full operation. Given how quickly Emirates monitor and upgrade flights to A380 (typically 6-8 months based on route demand), this might occur before the completion of the international terminal slated for around 2017. We would love to hear updates from you from the local front on this development. Given its long runways, Orlando is used as an alternate A380 airport for Miami in case of an emergency. It would not have a difficult time like you mentioned to build A380 service in the immediate future.

      Currently, only British Airways and Lufthansa has/announced A380 operations at MIA (Air France also used the double decker for its CDG service seasonally). There is definitely an appetite to provide space for this aircraft as the Miami Airport authority has plans to convert at least 2 pairs of gates in concourse H (starting with H15/H17) to accommodate them.

    3. One more thing to add to my comment above is that the only **major** carrier outside the Americas to serve Orlando from their hub is Lufthansa from Frankfurt. Now Emirates joins them.

      British Airways and Virgin Atlantic both offer daily service (seasonally with 747s and more-than-daily service) to London-Gatwick, but VA only serves destinations in the Americas from Gatwick, while BA serves mostly holiday destinations from Gatwick and only a handful of European destinations at Gatwick. Aer Lingus and Icelandair serve MCO from Dublin and Reykjavik, respectively, and provide modest service within Europe but don’t have much service elsewhere. Finally, Norwegian Air Shuttle operates from MCO to London-Gatwick, Oslo, & Copenhagen, and also serves a decent number of European destinations, but only a few elsewhere and of course, these are low-cost (long-haul on the flights in/out of MCO!) flights and don’t please business travelers.

      The bottom line is that MCO has decent one-stop connections to many non-US/Canada destinations in the Americas (US carriers [esp. AA via Miami], Copa to Panama City, Aeromexico to Mexico City, TAM to Sao Paulo-Guarulhos) and many European cities via Dublin (Aer Lingus) or Reykjavik (Icelandair) and with a low-cost carrier (Norwegian) via London-Gatwick, Oslo, & Copenhagen. However, Lufhansa is the only non-US/Canada carrier to offer one-stop flights beyond Europe to destinations like Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia (excluding code-share via US cities). There’s healthy competition from MCO to destinations like Hong Kong, Beijing, Seoul, and Istanbul on US carriers and code-share via a US city, but to smaller destinations like Nairobi, Johannesburg, Hyderabad, or Doha there’s few options.

      This might sound like a niche market and thus an empty argument, but better and cheaper connections with more of the world makes Orlando and Central Florida more attractive for businesses and *collectively* South Asia, Africa, & the Middle East are important regions to have connections with. When people can reach South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East in 20-24 hours instead of 28-34 hours (including layovers) and in fewer flights, it is more attractive for global businesses to move to (or stay in) Central Florida. Miami is about a 3-hour drive (with favorable traffic!), so not a very convenient option.

      I checked flights on for MCO to Johannesburg (JNB) for 5-21 January, 2016 (two months away and after the holiday season) that were one stop. The results: Emirates $1447, South African, Delta $1875, Lufhansa $2010 (but FRA-JNB leg is a codeshare operated by South African). On the same dates, Emirates is the only carrier to offer one-stop flights to Hyderabad (one of the largest cities in India), which is $1534 and 20hr departing (2.5hr layover) and 24hr returning (4hr layover). For two-stop flights, Etihad is cheapest at $1297 (via JFK & Doha, codeshare with AA) with a 44-hour trip departing (28.5hr on return) or $1333 with a 32hr departure trip (sam 28.5hr return) and British Airways at $1438 via Chicago (dep)/Philadelphia(ret) and London-Heathrow (AA codeshare), but the return trip is 37.5hr (departure is 26hr, but only a 1.5hr layover in Chicago…a good idea in mid-winter? I don’t think so).

      Bottom line: Emirates brings better connectivity at competitive prices to destinations outside Europe & the Americas.

      1. We agree as well. We highlighted that MCO was a great choice for EK to start service. Although it is a more leisure market, the city has a lot of potential to draw travellers from across the state (including MIA). It is geographically convenient for travellers from Latin America and US Southeast to connect to Europe and Southeast Asia (via one stop strategy). It also faces has competition from other airlines who fly into MIA.

        Once MCO finished upgrading its facilities, we expect to see EK flies its A380 (could be the high density version) there daily.

  9. Qatar airways will be launching from Atlanta on June 1, 2016.
    Ft. Lauderdale has more chance than MIA due to high JetBlue presence.

  10. After Emirates started their first flight to NY-JFK in 2004, Emirates planned to start flights from Atlanta in 2007 the reason being – Atlanta being the Big Apple of South & IT Hub in East Coast, there were no Gulf carriers from South Eastern US (which comprises about 10 states – Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia).

    But due to Delta’s monopoly in ATL Intl. Airport (84% terminal gates are controlled by Delta) & mutual ties with European carriers like British Airways, KLM, Air France & Lufthansa (to control airfares for huge profits mainly focused on Asian/African market – India, Gulf countries, Pak/Bangla, Srilanka, Africa) prompted to lobby against Emirates. So, Emirates had to look for other cities like Chicago, Washington DC, Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco, Boston, Houston, Dallas, Orlando. It is 2015 and Atlanta “STILL” does not have an Emirates flight. Some people who have no idea about the fares and service might say “Delta has a DXB flight daily from ATL. Isn’t that good, so why the need for gulf carriers?” So Delta decided not to code-share with gulf carriers and avoid them from the Atlanta market.

    People who have not shopped thoroughly about the comparison of fares, service, attitude, food, age/ model of aircraft, comfort, amenities, layover connections are being ripped off by Delta. Also, some people transit thru European gateways like Frankfurt, London, Paris & Amsterdam by Delta or Euro carriers where people are ripped off mostly. To add, the Delta daily flight to Dubai is said to have a 90-100% % occupancy with high fares.

    People in Atlanta who know about this “rip off ” transit thru other US cities served by gulf carriers. (For domestic flight transit – South West airlines allows 2 Bags up to 50 lbs each FREE.)

    Qatar Airways & Etihad tried to start flights from Atlanta. They also got the same experience from Delta. So, Qatar Airways had no choice and started from Miami on June 2014 and now Emirates from Orlando to start on Sept. -1, 2015. You may say we have “Qatar Airways commencing on June 01, 2016”. Isn’t that a good news? Yes, it is of course. But for Atlanta being the busiest airport in the world do we have to limit just for Qatar ? Why not Etihad also come to Atlanta?

  11. Why not Jacksonville, FL. It’s far less crowded than ATL or MIA and it is easy connecting to the other big cities.

    1. There are a few reasons why Jacksonville International Airport (JAX) may not be as suitable for Emirates’ immediate long haul expansion plans:
      1. Its runways 8/26 and 14/32 are only 7,701 and 10,000 feet in length and may not be long enough for both Airbus A380 and Boeing 777 to take off under full loads.
      2. Unlike Orlando, Emirates would not receive feeder traffic from JetBlue Airways here and would have to rely on organic demand around the city (JetBlue has trimmed or eliminated its flights to San Juan, Puerto Rico).
      3. The airport does not currently operate any international flights and may require setting up a new area to handle custom and immigration processes.
      4. Modification is required to make this airport A380 compliant. Besides possible runway extensions, JAX may need to reconfigure gates in Terminal A or C to accommodate more passengers.

      On the plus side, more than 747,000 people travelled from Jacksonville to Atlanta in the 12 months ending Feb 2015 likely to connect to other destinations. Emirates can monitor where these passengers are connect to and determine demand to Asia, Middle East or India.

  12. Would love to see Atlanta -> Dubai to Mumbai flights. Will be hugely popular in Atlanta because nobody offers one airline flight to Mumbai from Atlanta now.

    1. Qatar airways will be launching from Atlanta on June 1, 2016.
      Atlanta – Doha then to major cities in India (Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Chennai, Bengaluru, Amritsar etc.)
      QR755 Doha to Atlanta departing 8:30AM arriving 4:25PM
      QR756 Atlanta to Doha departing 8:30PM arriving 5:30PM (+1 day)

  13. I think you made a large error in not including Denver as a possible destination. Even Emirates has said they may serve Denver in the future.

    1. It is a great you asked about Denver.

      We did not include this city because of the following reasons:
      1. Both JetBlue Airways and Alaska Airlines do not operate hubs there. This means less feeder traffic for Emirates unlike Seattle, Boston and Orlando. There is also a lot of competition from United Airlines.
      2. Denver was only not in the top 20 most populated metropolitan area (it’s close than at 21st place in 2013).
      3. The airport is not yet equipped to handle regular Airbus A380 operations.

  14. TPA (Tampa, Florida) would be an excellent choice to start Emirates flights to Dubai. Tampa Bay area has the most growing population of immigrants and others from Asia and the middle east.

  15. Hello there,
    Not sure if this is still active and being considered, but wanted to check about the possibilities of having Emirates come to Tampa ? Tampa has been growing exponentially in the past 5 years are so and we have lot of people vote to get Emirates start flying from Tampa.


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