Leak of the Week – Emirates to fly to Philly

Philadelphia Emirates

Emirates’ President Tim Clark confirmed that his airline was in talks with the airport and municipal leaders in Philadelphia to become the MEB3 airline’s 11th US destination. The Pennsylvanian city will become far better connected if they do, gaining access to the airline’s current 126 global destinations.

As the vitriolic words continue to pass between the USB3 (American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines) and MEB3 (Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways), the latter seem hell bent on launching plenty of new US routes, just to prove their point in the rhetoric still further, with Emirates’ boss suggesting that Philadelphia will be its 11th US destination. The leak occurred during a press briefing being held last week by Emirates’ President Tim Clark, who let it slip that the airline was in talks with airport and municipal leaders in Philadelphia to make the city its next US destination. Clark was speaking at National Press Club in Washington, where he unveiled a 400-page rebuttal of the allegations made by the USB3 that Emirates is unfairly subsidised by the Government of Dubai and used its financial positions to expand in the US at the expense of the three US carriers.

Five new US routes being planned

Almost to rub salt in the wounds, since the war of words between the two groups of airlines began earlier this year five new routes have been announced by the MEB3, now including Philadelphia. In late-March, Emirates announced that its 10th US destination would be Orlando, to be started on 1 September, flown daily by the airline’s 777-200LRs. Just over a month later, Qatar Airways made a statement that it would begin daily flights to Los Angeles on 1 January 2016 using its 777-200LRs, with a daily Boston route to follow on 16 March, this time to be operated by its A350-900s. Two weeks ago, the oneworld carrier continued the US new route onslaught, with Atlanta set to become its 10th US destination from 1 June 2016. Etihad Airways currently has no plans to add any further US destinations to the four daily flights that will come into operation over the next 12 months.

 “They are not the only ones that want us fly to their city”

During his robust response to the USB3’s allegations, Clark also suggested that there was a queue of US airports lining up outside his office door, making their respective cases for Emirates to add their city to its network. Following on from his Philadelphia remark, Clark said: “They are not the only ones that want us fly to their city.” Indeed, in the airline’s weighty rebuttal tome, it was made evident which US airports had made approaches to the MEB3 carrier:

Airports already served by a MEB3 carrier (in brackets):

Miami (Qatar Airways); and Atlanta (Qatar Airways – from 1 June).

Airport not served by a MEB3 carrier:

Minneapolis-St. Paul; Las Vegas; Baltimore/Washington; Cleveland; Phoenix; Buffalo; Pittsburgh; Denver; Detroit; and San Jose.

Philadelphia Qatar

Emirates could well be the second MEB3 carrier at Philadelphia, following in the contrails of Qatar Airways, which started its own daily services to the US destination, its fifth at the time of launch, last year. The prospects of service to nearby Pittsburgh or New York Newark would appear to be further off if Emirates does commence operations from Philadelphia.

MEB3 x 2 at Philly

If and when Emirates does arrive in Philadelphia, its operations will join the daily services already offered by Qatar Airways, which launched its own flights on 2 April last year. The arrival of the Dubai-based carrier in the Pennsylvania city would be a bitter blow for nearby Pittsburgh (430 km/270 miles across the state), which we now know has courted Emirates, but is yet to attract any of the MEB3 carriers to its airport.

Although not mentioned in Clark’s rebuttal report, New York Newark, which is even closer to Philadelphia (at just 130 km/80 miles away) in neighbouring New Jersey, would also seemingly be off the MEB3 radar too, despite all three heavily serving New York JFK. The fact that Newark continues to be overlooked by the three airlines comes regardless of the fact that JFK is the #1 US destination (Chicago O’Hare and Washington Dulles both have the same amount of weekly seats as JFK for Qatar Airways) for all of the MEB3 carriers in terms of weekly seats (according to OAG Schedules Analyser week commencing 7 July). One thing is for certain, as the war of words rumbles on, the MEB3 will probably be pulling forward plans for further US growth rather than putting potential new routes on the backburner.

Indian market #1 opportunity

In order to determine the key markets that Emirates will be targeting from Philadelphia, our data elves have used OAG’s Traffic Analyser. The results are derived from looking at annual adjusted one-way booking figures for 2014 for traffic originating in the Pennsylvanian city but routing via intermediate points like London Heathrow, Frankfurt and Doha to get to its final destination within the current Emirates network of 126 global destinations. Only logical onward connections to cities in Africa, Middle East and Asia have been considered, as it deemed unlikely that Philadelphia passengers going to Budapest are going to choose to fly via Dubai. Indian destinations (highlighted in light green) would seemingly be the most likely traffic target for Emirates, securing five of the top dozen opportunities.

Chart - Philadelphia's Top 12 onward opportunities Annual adjusted bookings

Source: OAG Traffic Analyser.


  1. Chris says:

    I am quite enjoying this hyped up spat that the USB3 are going to lose in the end. Yesterday, Emirates began its second daily SEA-DXB flight, a city which Delta is targeting as a transpacific hub. Mr. Anderson over at Delta recently commented that they would fly non-stop from here to India if Emirates weren’t in the market. This makes no sense to me because if he thinks there is the demand to fly SEA-DEL nonstop, then he should put his A330 or 777 where his mouth is and launch it. Rather than competing and offering a non-stop service (saving hours of journey time) which may be preferred by some travelers, he simply points the finger at Emirates. Bottom line is that Delta (and the others) can’t and won’t win if they don’t compete.

    I’ll add that I’m only an industry observer, not a participant. The USB3 are not winning my sympathy with their exporting jobs propaganda. Perhaps they could CREATE some jobs by competing where they can. They don’t have to compete so much at home, now that the big 6 have dwindled to the big 3. It isn’t the USB3 giving us more travel choices today, it is the Independent carriers like Alaska, Virigin America, jetBlue and Southwest as well as foreign flag carriers that are providing us with options.

    To rephrase what they say when we land, “You know I have a choice of carriers when I have travel plans, and when my future plans call for international travel, I’ll look to Emirates, British Airways, Lufthansa, Icelandair, Hainan Airlines, Asiana, Korean Air, EVA and Air Canada.”

    • Harish says:

      Chris, excellent post. I live in NY and fly Emirates out of JFK with a one stop to Hyderabad. The connection is far more efficient and exciting. As Sir Tim Clark of Emirates has pointed out, this battle by the US Big-3 is at the behest of their JV partners in Europe. Though no one talks about it, I am sure it is to prevent fifth freedom flights…like JFK-Milan-Dubai. Imagine direct US flights on Emirates to Greece, Spain…it would be wonderful! I am sure the news about US Big 3 colluding should make it difficult for them to go on with their argument against the gulf carriers.

      Not sure if you are following the comments on regulations.gov regarding this issue—where the Federal Government has asked for public comments.

  2. Harish says:

    My question to the editors at AnnaAero: why don’t the persian gulf carriers operating out of EWR where such a sizable Indian population lives? Air India operates out of both JFK and EWR. Are there any restrictions as per policy? or is a matter of time?…I know Emirates talks about flying to 20 points within the US and I often wonder if EWR will ever be one of those? I know you mention EWR in your analysis above, but it was not clear what you were trying to communicate. Thanks for this interesting piece!

    • Marc Watkins says:

      Hi Harish, thanks for your comment. My point was, that given the distance that PHL is from EWR, and if EK does start PHL, then it will make EWR less likely, despite the points you raise above. Plus it will face direct competition in the guise of QR.

  3. Stephen says:

    If “it deemed unlikely that Philadelphia passengers going to Budapest are going to choose to fly via Dubai,” why would they go to Accra via Dubai? According to http://www.gcmap.com, both are extremely circuitous: 109% out of the way for ACC vs 111% for BUD.

    • Marc Watkins says:

      Hi Stephen, thanks for your comment. You are 100% right – or maybe 109% 😉 – about Accra. For simplicity I just used the whole of Africa in my analysis…rather than being more specific about the logic of flying to one particular destination or another. However, for the record I am flying to World Routes BHX-DXB-DUR…

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