by Vinay Bhaskara
Emirates, the world’s fastest growing airline, announced today an expansion of its North American network. Beginning February 2nd, 2012, Emirates will serve Dallas-Fort worth once daily nonstop from Dubai. On March 1st, 2012, they will also add daily flights to Seattle-Tacoma.
Emirates flights to Dallas will be served with 266 seat Boeing 777-200LR aircraft. The aircraft are configured with 8 first class seats, 42 business class seats, and 216 economy class seats. The economy class seats are configured in 10-abreast seating (10 seats per row) with seat pitch of 32 inches and seat width of 17 inches. Flight schedules for Dallas-Fort Worth are as follows:
EK221 ~ DXB 0245 – DFW 0905 ~ Daily 777-200LR
EK222 ~ DFW 1150 – DXB 1220 (+1) ~ Daily 777-200LR
Meanwhile, the flights to Seattle-Tacoma will be served by 360 seat Boeing 777-300ER aircraft with 8 first class seats, 42 business class seats, and 310 seats in economy class. Economy class seating is 10-abreast with identical seat pitch and seat width of 32 inches and 17 inches respectively. The flight schedules for Seattle-Tacoma are as follows
EK229 ~ DXB 0950 – SEA 1310 ~ Daily 777-300ER
EK230 ~ SEA 1710 – DXB 1940 (+1) ~ Daily 777-300ER
Business class for both aircraft features fully lie-flat seats, with full private suites available to first class passengers. Both routes will also feature Emirates’ ICE seat-back entertainment system for passengers of all classes.
Furthermore, Emirates will be enhancing its passenger experience at one of its existing US gateways in San Francisco with a new Emirates Lounge. According to the carrier:
Located in the International Terminal’s Boarding Area “A,” the new Emirates Lounge will be a two-level haven for First and Business class passengers comprised of more than 9,500 square feet…. All Emirates Lounges feature a business centre with individual work stations and complimentary broadband and wireless LAN access. Emirates Airport Services staff manage the lounge at all times, while on-site chefs ensure passengers have a wide selection of food and beverages round-the-clock featuring both hot and cold dishes. The dining area also offers a full bar service, including champagne.
Dallas-Fort Worth and Seattle-Tacoma become the 5th and 6th destinations for Emirates in North America. The carrier already serves New York (JFK), Los Angeles, Houston, and San Francisco in the United States. Furthermore, it plans to add a 7th US destination in 2012 (location undisclosed as of now). It is surprising to some however, that Emirates chose to expand in Dallas-Fort Worth and Seattle-Tacoma, given that Chicago, Washington-DC, and even to an extent Boston are all larger markets. However, Chicago is served from the Middle East by rival carriers Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways, and Qatar serves Washington DC as well.
The links between Boeing and Emirates are certainly a driving factor behind the new route to Seattle. Emirates is the world’s largest operator of Boeing 777 aircraft. According to statistics from the Brookings Institution, there were roughly US $1.7 billion worth of exports from the Seattle area to the UAE, primarily Boeing aircraft. The combination of aerospace links with the Asia-Pacific region, and tech links (think Microsoft etc.) with much of the world provide a solid base of business traffic for the route.
Meanwhile Dallas-Fort Worth has large general business links with Asia and Africa. But even larger is the VFR (visiting family and relatives) travel market. The Dallas-Fort Worth area has one of the largest Asian populations in the US (and was once home to one of Bangalore Aviation’s co-authors), and other carriers (such as Korean Air) have found a niche serving this large leisure market.
Both markets have large links with India as well, and Emirates quickly becomes the most convenient option to the majority of Indian destinations from Seattle and Dallas. US Census data from 2010 indicates that the Dallas Fort Worth MSA has a non-resident Indian (NRI) population of 100,386, while Seattle-Tacoma’s MSA is home to 52,652 NRIs. Both flights are timed to connect into Emirates’ various banks of Indian flights.
However, Emirates’ 10-abreast seating in economy class is notoriously uncomfortable with just 17 inches of seat width. Meanwhile, other options for travel to India such as Singapore Airlines, Qatar Airways, Jet Airways, and even Air India offer 9-abreast seating on their 777s, with a much more comfortable 18.5-19 inches of seat width.
Regardless, kudos to Emirates for expanding its business further in the US. There are a total of 10-15 destinations in the US that can support Emirates service, and as more aircraft arrive in the coming months, expect them to further expand their US services.