Despite a Mexican federal court ruling against Emirates, the Dubai-based airlines plans to move forward with planned flights to Mexico City via Barcelona.
Emirates has tried to launch service to Mexico City for years. Due to the high altitude of Mexico City, a nonstop flight is not commercially feasible. Thus, Emirates planned a stop in Barcelona in each direction, challenging Aeromexico on a lucrative route, but choosing a route that will likely draw many additional visitors to Mexico.
Initially, Emirates scrapped the route because Mexico would not grant Emirates permission for daily service, only three times weekly service. But the governments of the United Arab Emirates and Mexico later signed a comprehensive air services agreement that explicitly allowed daily service and Fifth Freedom flights (i.e. pick-up rights on segments between Barcelona to Mexico City). This augmented an earlier air services agreement first signed in 2007.
Emirates plans a Boeing 777-200 on the route, with 38 seats in business class and 264 seats in economy class. The flight will operate daily, have pick-up rights in Barcelona, and operate under the following schedule:
EK255 Dubai to Barcelona dep 3:30AM arr 8:00AM
EK255 Barcelona to Mexico City dep 9:55AM arr 4:15PM
EK256 Mexico City to Barcelona dep 7:40PM arr 1:25PM+1
EK256 Barcelona to Dubai dep 3:10PM arr 12:45AM+1
The Judge’s Ruling
But last week, a Mexican federal judge ruled that the agreement between the UAE and Mexico “did not meet proper legal requirements.” The Mexico Air Pilots’ Association (ASPA) had sued, arguing that the MoU had not been ratified by the Mexican Senate or properly by the Transport Ministry.
Furthermore, pulling a card from the Delta playbook, the lawsuit argued the new Emirates service runs afoul of a prohibition on “unfair and non-equivalent market exchange” in Mexico’s Civil Aviation Regulation. In other words, Aeromexico and its pilots union argued Emirates’ is subsidized by the UAE and will unfairly undermine market competition.
While Aeromexico declared victory, Emirates has essentially shrugged and says it still plans to start the route on December 9, 2019 as scheduled.
In a statement on the ruling, Emirates said:
We firmly believe that the MoU is valid and the ruling of the court will be the subject of an appeal by the Government of Mexico. Pending the outcome of this appeal, all our rights remain valid and in force.
Translation: the flight will operate as planned because this lower court ruling will soon be overturned.
Whether that is a legal bluff remains to be seen, but Emirates is still selling the flight on it website and via other booking channels.
Emirates is helped in that the government is fully behind its entrance into the market, even if it comes at the cost of increased competition to Aeromexico. I fully expect the federal judge’s ruling to be overturned on appeal and the route to commence as planned this December. If necessary, the government will formalize the MoU: this is just a temporary roadblock.