Emirates is walking a fine line between targeting commercially lucrative routes and trying to keep protective U.S. carriers quiet. Even so, it is exploring options to add new Fifth Freedom routes between the USA and Europe.
Fifth Freedom routes are allow an airline to carry revenue traffic between foreign countries as a part of services connecting the airline’s own country.
In the U.S. market, Emirates operates Fifth Freedom flights between New York (JFK) and Milan (MXP) as well as between Newark (EWR) and Athens (ATH).
Zach Honig of The Points Guy recently caught up with Sir Tim Clark, President of Emirates.
First, Clark noted that Fifth Freedom routes only make up a small portion of Emirates’ business.
“It doesn’t drive our business model at all. The number of Fifth Freedom flights we have is less than 1%.”
Nevertheless, Emirates has had great success with these flights. It will soon begin a new Fifth Freedom flight between Barcelona (BCN) and Mexico City (MEX) and would also love to increase service to New York. Speaking of the JFK-MXP flight, Clark said:
“That flight is completely full all the time. Every single flight is full. We should have two on there, but I can’t get the slots into JFK.”
Clark also added that many Frankfurt passengers take Emirates to Milan, then connect.
So why not add more? The first problem at JFK is slot restrictions. The capacity-controlled airport does not have additional slots available and Emirates is not currently willing to pay the going rate to procure one on the secondary market.
But it is about more than that. Emirates has fierce critics in the USA, led by Delta, which pour time and money into efforts to derail Gulf Carrier growth to the USA. While this is presented as a defense of American jobs, in reality Gulf Carriers 1.) create U.S. jobs, 2.) buy Boeing jets, and 3.) keep fares and soft products competitive.
Even so, Emirates could obtain more JFK slots if it wanted to. This is just my opinion, of course, but I believe that Emirates does not want to kick the hornet’s nest right now, especially as it has faced pushback from Mexico over its new Barcelona – Mexico flight. Instead, it is waiting for the right moment.
> Read More: Emirates Plans to Defy Court Order In Mexico City
I would love to see Emirates add an extra Milan flight and a Frankfurt flight from New York JFK. In fact, I think most consumers would. But Emirates has more to consider than just slots and whether it can fill up its planes. There are dark political calculations also at work.
Frankfurt passengers fly to Milan for the JFK flight? Why not fly Singapore Airlines nonstop?
I’m just quoting Clark, but that was my first thought as well.
@Derek, look at the difference between what Emirates charge and what SIA charge trans-Atlantic and there is your answer!
Actually that Singapore flight (which I occasionally use) is often the cheapest paid Business to JFK. Many times it’s around $1500 one way when LH and others are charging 4 times that. Good r/t deals are also plentiful. I hate the 8AM departure from FRA but it’s a darn good value usually!
As well, better than Emirates, is that this SIA flight gets you mileage in your choice of Star Alliance carriers – which is to me far more valuable than the horrible Emirates program.
“Clark also added that many Frankfurt passengers take Emirates to Milan, then connect.”
Are the savings in $$$ that much worth it and/or is Emirates that much better in all classes of services for people to choose that option? You’re adding at least what, 3 hours of traveling time between flying between MXP and FRA, plus transit time…
It doesn’t make sense to me, especially with SQ on the route. Not sure if he meant from a cost perspective; it sounds like he meant from an onboard experience perspective which doesn’t strike me as worthwhile, even in first class (vs LH and SQ).
Unless someone values the novelty of an onboard shower on an 8 hr flight over convenience, SIA has the leg up in my mind. Last week, we did the mentioned itinerary. SIA Suites on miles JFK-FRA (which had very good KrisFlyer saver availability for 2), then booked Lufthansa for the FRA-CDG leg with only 8K United miles each. The connection and re-checkin was easy with enough time to enjoy the very well done Lufthansa Panorama Lounge in FRA with Star Gold access, before the quick unmemorable 45 minute LH flight.
The base of EK business model was to offer nonstop services from Dubai to all destinations. Of course, some cities can’t be reached nonstop like Buenos Aires and Santiago.
Besides the cheaper fares, I think the 5th freedom flights give the opportunity to try Emirates without flying all the way to Dubai.