- Emirates is building back its route network with 78 flights to the US come October.
- The Airbus A380 is also returning to all of its year-round pre-pandemic destinations.
- The in-flight service is also back to its pre-pandemic offering including caviar in first class.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Like the rest of the industry, Emirates was not immune to the uncertainty that engulfed the aviation industry in the COVID-19 pandemic’s early days. All of its scheduled passenger flights were suspended between March 25, 2020, and May 21, 2020, as the global carrier focused on moving vital cargo instead of people.
But with the United Arab Emirates soon allowing transit passengers and Dubai opening its doors to visitors as early as July 2020, the Middle Eastern mega carrier didn’t have to wait long to get back in the air.
Now, it’s championing a near return to normal in the US market.
“By October, we’re going to have 78 weekly frequencies in each direction,” Essa Sulaiman Ahmad, Emirates’ division vice president for the US and Canada, told Insider. That’s compared to 100 weekly flights before the pandemic, putting the airline close to its pre-pandemic strength.
Emirates, however, won’t be returning to every US city it served before the pandemic. One city that didn’t exist in the airline’s route network before the pandemic is Miami, the new gateway to South Florida over Fort Lauderdale,
Fort Lauderdale offered a direct link to the region’s cruise ship terminals but the pandemic allowed Emirates to secure favorable time slots at both Dubai International Airport and Miami International Airport for cruise-goers and other visitors to Florida. Ahmad also cited Miami’s business attraction given that major conferences will be soon be held in the city, including Bitcoin 2022.
Besides Miami, Emirates’ US destinations include New York; Los Angeles; Chicago; Houston; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Seattle; Newark; Orlando, Florida; Dallas; Houston, Texas; Boston; and Washington, DC.
The Airbus A380 is also making its US return, with plans to return the aircraft to every city it served prior to the pandemic. Americans received Emirates’ smaller Boeing 777 planes during the pandemic as the A380s were kept closer to home.
“Slowly but surely, the A380s are going to fly and they’re going to fly to all of those [pre-COVID] destinations,” Ahmad said. “The United States is ready for it.”
Some A380 flights to the US will also feature Emirates’ new premium economy class, as part of a cabin upgrade for the world’s largest passenger jet. Emirates unveiled the product in December 2020 that includes enhancements in every cabin.
Current and future A380 destinations include Los Angeles, New York, Washington, and San Francisco. Boston, which briefly saw seasonal A380 service between June 1, 2019, and January 31, 2020, isn’t currently scheduled to receive the A380 in 2022.
Emirates’ home base is also proving to be more than just a connection hub for Americans.
“We have seen more Americans going to Dubai during the pandemic than previously,” Ahmad said, adding that the UAE’s largest city opened early to American tourists in July 2020 and is hosting events such as Expo 2020 Dubai in 2021 and 2022.
Other popular destinations through Dubai include the Maldives, South Africa, and Seychelles. Italy is also a popular destination, which Emirates serves directly from New York.
And besides mask-wearing policies, Ahmad said that frequent Emirates customers should not notice any major difference in the onboard experience. On the Airbus A380, for example, first class customers can still make use of the onboard showers for which the double-decker aircraft is known and enjoy caviar.
The key for a global airline surviving the pandemic, according to Ahmad, is to be nimble, especially as the Delta variant is threatening the world’s reopening.
When the world’s borders first closed, Emirates shifted to repatriation flights and cargo flights. Its largest aircraft, including the Boeing 777-300ER and Airbus A380, were converted to makeshift freighters to accommodate the surging demand for cargo.
Now, Emirates has a direct line of communications with the UAE government through which it can have a better idea of which countries are opening and closing. And just like with the Miami-Fort Lauderdale swap, the airline needs to be ready to adjust.
“What keeps me awake [at night], to be honest, is looking for the next opportunities,” Ahmad said.
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