United is challenging Emirates directly with a vastly superior business class seat between Newark and Athens, the only route the two carriers compete directly on.
United has long complained that Emirates is unfairly targeting its customers by launching a money-losing Fifth Freedom route from Newark, United’s largest East Coast hub.
Nevertheless, the route has endured for nearly three years and United’s seasonal service has survived also.
One thing I love about Scott Kirby compared to predecessors like Jeff Smisek is a willingness to compete hard on routes, not just cede them to others. When Emirates announced new service between Newark and Athens I did fear that United would give up before getting into a nasty price war with Emirates.
But apparently there was room for both at the table and United is doing what every airline who complains about Gulf Carriers should do: compete harder.
Specifically, Ziggy from Traveling For Miles noted that United is putting a 787-10 on its Athens route this summer, a big upgrade from the 767-400 in terms of business class seating (not so much for economy class passengers, who go from 2-3-2 to 3-3-3). Ziggy calls it “odd” but the move makes perfect sense to me: United wants to pull premium travelers from Emirates.
United 787-10 vs. Emirates 777-300ER
United’s 787-10 has 1-2-1 seating in Polaris business class with direct aisle access from every seat:
Meanwhile, Emirate’s 777-300ER (77W) that it uses on the Newark – Athens routes does not even feature fully lie-flat seats in business class. Even worse, the configuration is 2-3-2 in business class, meaning middle seats and 3/7 passengers in each row do not have direct aisle access:
I find food and service to be hit or miss on Emirates and business class (unlike first class) is not dine-on-demand. Thus, while Emirates offers a far superior first class product, if you are looking for the best business class product I would take United any day over Emirates. United will also have a true premium economy product and extra legroom economy seats in the main cabin.
It’s refreshing to see United compete with Emirates rather than just give up. Clearly–at least in business class–United is competing strongly on this popular leisure route.
Would you take Emirates or United to Athens in business class?