Emirates announced it would offer daily non-stop service between Newark and Athens effective March 26, 2017, the carrier’s latest Fifth Freedom route. The new route puts United and Emirates on collision course — who will blink first or can both survive?
New Emirates Athens Service
Athens will operate its Newark – Athens flight as part of a “direct” service under EK209/210 between Dubai and Newark. The 777-300 will spend two hours on the ground in Athens in either direction, allowing time to load and unload passengers and cargo while giving the carrier a bit of breathing room in case of delays.
EK209 Dubai to Athens dep 10:50 arr 15:30
EK209 Athens to Newark dep 17:30 arr 22:00
EK210 Newark to Athens dep 23:45 arr 16:00+1
EK210 Athens to Dubai dep 18:00 arr 23:40
The 777-300ER will offer economy, business, and first class service. Business will have angled lie-flat seats (like this trip report earlier today by Rohan at Travel Codex).
Bad Blood with United Airlines
Recall that United Airlines ran service between Washington Dulles and Dubai for several years but suspended its service last year after deeming it could not compete with Emirates on the same route.
Coincidentally…or not…Emirates announced its new service on the one-year anniversary United ceded IAD-DXB to it.
United asserted it abandoned its Dubai flight because of “subsidized” carriers like Emirates and Etihad but the primary reason was that United lost its federal government contract on that route. The route was awarded to JetBlue, which does not operate between IAD and DXB but does codeshare with Emirates. Under the Fly America Act, that was good enough.
Emirates CEO Comments on New Athens Route
While both Delta and United operate seasonal service to Athens, a market highly dependent upon tourist traffic, there is a reason why the service is not year-around.
Emirates CEO Tim Clark had this to say about the new route–
Sir Tim Clark, President of Emirates Airline said: “The Greek Government and Athens International Airport approached Emirates some time ago to consider serving the route between Athens and New York. After careful review, Emirates concluded that extending one of our Dubai-Athens flights to Newark would be commercially and operationally feasible. We are pleased to be able to help meet a strong consumer need long neglected by other airlines, and we would like to thank the authorities and our partners in both the US and Greece for their support of the new route.”
Sir Tim added: “The availability of high quality, daily international air services is essential for the development of business and cultural ties. Trade, especially in high-value and time-sensitive products, will be facilitated by the ample cargo capacity on Emirates’ Boeing 777 aircraft. We also expect tourism to receive a major boost from the availability of daily flights year-round.”
A Pragmatic Kirby
If Emirates can do what every other carrier in the past has failed to do and make this route profitable, then more power to it. I have my doubts, though.
Nevertheless, Emirates may still be willing to sustain a loss long enough to snuff out United with cut-rate fares. United President Scott Kirby has announced a refocus on domestic routes and does not strike me as the type of leader who would ever keep a route for pride reasons.
United will be watching yields and its Athens flights do leave at different times than Emirates:
UA124 Newark to Athens dep 17:40 arr 10:30+1
UA125 Athens to Newark dep 12:30 arr 16:30
But I am convinced that United won’t waste its time if fares plummet on this market.
Although Emirates expansion has slowed quite dramatically, this new Fifth Freedom route is sure to be popular with many travelers to Greece. Keep an eye out for good fares and let’s see how United and Delta will respond to new competition on one of its bread-and-butter routes.