Topic of the Week: What Does Orlando Say About Emirates’ Strategy in the US?

Emirates, MCO - Orlando

Airlines add new routes all the time and I don’t blink an eye, but every so often something surprising happens. Emirates has announced daily service from Dubai to Orlando in September. This is on top of the new second daily service that was announced to Seattle. (Coincidence that it’s 2 daily 777s instead of 1 daily A380 to the city where the 777 was built? No way.)

So what do you think about this move? Does Orlando make sense? Why would the airline start it during the single weakest month for tourism there? Let’s hear your thoughts.

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28 comments on “Topic of the Week: What Does Orlando Say About Emirates’ Strategy in the US?

  1. The Seattle flight is to thank Boeing for all the subsidies they get from local, state, and federal sources here in the us (will CHS be next?)

    The Orlando flight is to do research about how to copy Disney world in Dubai fashion so they can hide more subsides they receive from the Dubai government.


  2. I can’t speak much towards the timeline though I suppose much of it is aircraft availability and reshuffling. It is an interesting development that EK has been slowly adding more leisure destinations that were holes in the network like Bali and now Orlando. I think it makes sense as many large Arab families would certainly have the Disney-pull (despite some theme parks in the region, Disneyworld is something bigger) but I suppose there can be feed from JetBlue as well. My next guess for EK in USA is Denver.

  3. Airlines may choose a low season start to train crews to the specifics of a destination, test catering quality and consistency before issues reach the premium cabin pax and establish standards of ground service before swamping employees and contractors with full flight loads.

    The fact that DL, UA, LH, BA and Virgin will loose valuable business TATL and Asia pax may just make Mr.Clark giggle. Central Florida has numerous technology companies and colleges with a predominant Asian and North African population. They visit their families regularly and would appreciate an airport with more relaxed customs/immigration.

  4. Orlando is a vacation destination and Dubai has a lot of connecting flights… they are looking for
    tourist traffic, not sure people would fly from Europe to Dubai and then to Orlando but from other parts of the mideast and Asia they might. Sept. is weak for tourism at least for Americans to go there, Emirates looking for a different demographic would be my guess.

  5. September is a higher season for conferences though – perhaps it will be a bit business heavier to start…

  6. The 2nd daily SEA is likely a giant finger to Canada/Vancouver as EK havent been able to get more slots into Canada (and they would love to serve YVR and YYC)

    as for 772 v 380 service, SEA has no 380 compatible updown gatea

  7. Its hard to know considering the number of people who take package vacations to the Orlando area. Certainly there seems to be a large number of foreign tourists visiting the Orlando area, but again, it’ll be interesting to see how sustainable tapping the nouveau rich will be, considering how quickly it can evaporate. Just look at the number of European resorts that put all their chips into the Russian oligarch money, and are getting burned now due to ruble collapse and sanctions. Will we see a similar collapse in Gulf incomes in the event of geopolitical issues? It’s always a stark reminder that international travel, and by proxy air travel, is at the whims of much larger issues.

  8. Great result for MCO and for Orlando. Visitor count from the ME has been steadily rising and this direct route is fantastic for them and for the feed that wants to travel from India and other central Asian locations. There is too much rhetoric from the legacy carriers at the moment who want to spoil open skies and prevent opportunity for travel for millions of people. Why are American, Delta and United not operating this and other routes, because there is the demand out there from the new middle classes. How many of their management have flown Etihad, Emirates and Qatar to experience the way these airlines treat their passengers in ALL classes, not just business or first class. This is why they succeed because they offer a standard of service as opposed to operating a mediocre service level with staff who are on the whole completely disinterested in their passengers not withstanding the ticket costs that they pay for the privilege of a low level of customer service. Staff on the Middle east Airlines value their jobs and the service levels that they achieve and still have pride in their operation. Long may the expansion continue worldwide as far as we consumers are concerned. Well done MCO and well done Orlando – a HUGE economic benefit to the Central Florida economy. We need more of this.

    William Quentin Jones UK Cell +44 (0)7717 335917 USA Cell (001) 407 908 1572

    Subject: Topic of the Week: What Does Orlando Say About Emirates’ Strategy in the US?

    1. This market would never exist without the subsidies that the ME carriers receive. You can’t have a long-haul, 100% leisure market like this and make it work. Don’t you think there is a reason that that no US carrier has even thought about it? Sounds like you only want to look at it from one side of the coin.

      Everything that you argue is great about the ME carriers is only available because they are subsidized. If they had to charge real prices for the product they offered they would not be in business.

      1. This is not a 100% leisure route. Orlando has the second largest conference center in the Americas, and Port Canaveral (the largest East Coast cruise port) is being expanded under a $630 million contract with a Dubai-based company. MCO has LGW and not LHR service, so for business travel to India and elsewhere, this new route will allow more efficient business travel. There is a large Asian and Indian community in Orlando as well.

      2. Governments have been subsidizing airlines — and other modes of transportation — as long as there have been airlines. I will gladly fly a foreign carrier if they provide safe and reliable transportation with better service and the same (or lower) cost than U.S. carriers.

        We need more competition from foreign carriers. U.S. airlines are taking advantage of their dominance in the domestic market, a dominance due in large part because U.S. law restricts competition by prohibiting foreign ownership. After industry consolidation, there’s now less competition. And what has happened? Routes have been cut, FF programs have become bait-and-switch shell games, absurd fees are everywhere, Byzantine rules are set up to gouge passengers, and customer service is the pits.

        Lots of people like me have come to despise the way airlines run their businesses now — and not coincidentally U.S. airlines are in a race to the bottom in esteem by the public. I say let foreign carriers in to shake up this cesspool of a business.

  9. I see it as a way to get folks that want to go to Orlando to use them and maybe stay over a day or two and patronize their developing attraction playland. Seems the are building more theme parks and water parks again and expanding g Ferrari World and there is the most amazing waterpark there is in Yaz. I can also give American to use Orlando as as a bookend to go enjoy those new places as well. Orlando is rapidly growing and a short distance away from Tampa and Miami.

  10. Orlando is just like any other major U.S. city with a lot of people there year round for work or play and they aren’t all Americans or Europeans. EK will be using DXB to connect people to places like India and other beyond DXB locations. Also people living in the middle east like to have fun and Euro Disney can’t offer all the entertainment value like the Orlando area can. But could domed air conditioned Dubai Disney be a goal some day?

  11. Flying in Sep to test everything before the December peak season. What’s the issue?

    A more “passionate” topic is about the subsidies….

    Who cares if EK or the other Gulf carriers get subsidies?!! If they can fly me in fantastic style (or better than the American carriers) and at a cheaper price, I am very happy. If the ME governments support their airlines because they see the airline as 1 piece of a bigger puzzle to drive more business / tourists / investment to their countries, then what’s the big deal?

    Maybe the ME governments look at the airlines like a loss-leader. Get the customers to come to Dubai and then sell them more things at a higher cost when they get to Dubai (hotel rooms, food, jewellery). And then maybe those customers will end up buying things they hadn’t thought of (investing in companies, opening an office, starting a company).

    Like the supermarkets….they sell you cheap bread and eggs and hope you’ll buy caviar!

    Think of Dubai/Abu Dhabi/Qatar as the supermarket that has many different items (industries). The airlines are the eggs/bread to get the customers into the supermarket!

  12. Saudia used to continue its flight from Saudi Arabia to Washington onto Orlando. From what I’ve heard there are a lot of wealthy Saudis and probably Emiratis that spend a couple months at a time in Walt Disney World Deluxe hotels and go to the various “Kingdoms” at Disney World. Hey, if money is no consideration Orlando and its many entertainment parks is not a bad way to spend a few months away from the Persian Gulf.

  13. Here’s a partial list of subsidized airlines. (It’s hard to keep track.) Don’t forget the $5 billion in direct government payments post 9/11 to U.S. carriers:
    Alitalia, Lufthansa, Iberia, Swiss, Olympic, Austrian, Air India, Philippine Airlines, JAL, Thai, Qantas, United, American, Delta, US Airways, Continental, and most recently this year another subsidy for South African Airways, which hasn’t seemed to anger anyone.

  14. Although Orlando is a big leisure/convention draw, this is a very long, thin route. I doubt there is enough demand to profitably fill a daily 777 flight.

  15. Orlando already draws large numbers of visitors (tourist & business) from the Mideast and Far East. Getting here involves connecting through either European airports, New York or Miami. That adds hours to an already grueling trip. My guess is Emirates has analyzed travel patterns for those customers and sees a market for direct flights to/from MCO. The Orlando metro’s population is 2.3 million and expected to grow 50% in the next 10-15 years. Tourism aside (which is up), other business and industry is booming. Conventions keep multiple convention and conference centers booked year-round. The airport is expanding and they can’t build new homes and hotels fast enough. Emirates expansion is not really surprising.

  16. As someone who works for the company that handles EK in Seattle we are (I am not being official here by the way anything I say is my opinion) at least as an employee group (ramp and gate agents) A. Glad they cant bring an A380 into SeaTac and B. Annoyed but not surprised that we are getting a second flight because except for maybe a month or two where they are just 60-75% full they are always full because of people wanting to go to India (DEL, HYD, BLR, BOM) and Iran. We often are told to set up cans that go from our flight straight to the on word flights.

  17. Subsidies and politics aside the MCO Air Service Development team had to have had a lot to do with this.
    Look who else is flying to MCO…that does not happen just because of the mouse!

  18. Part of me thinks this is Tim Clark doing is best Akbar Al Baker impersonation and deliberately poking the big 3 in the eye after all the crap they’ve tossed his way the past six months. “You think Emirates’ existence depends on subsidies? Watch this move suckers…”

    I had read that EK is mulling a second service to SFO. Find that hard to believe since they just started flying the A380 there only recently. But if the load factors and demands are high enough…

  19. Orlando is a strange city for Emirates to start….Saudia tried it and failed… seems most Disney traffic comes from Europe….to take Emirates means back tracking to Dubai, then flying back over the city you came from and i don’t think you can book a ticket that way…..they have all these shiney new planes they need to send somewhere and since they don’t have to worry about profits, why not give it a try….i can’t see that much traffic connecting from MCO onward to India, Asia etc…..time will tell…..

    1. Saudia did not work because it tried to serve the Saudis and middle eastern countries. Emirates main target is Indian Sub Continent and it has five daily flights to New Delhi and it serves upto 15 Indian Airports. 5 Pakistani Airport. 4 Daily Flights to Bangladesh, Srilanka, Nepal.

  20. I thought I could contribute from my personal experience. I live in Orlando and I traveled to Indian Subcontinent with Emirates thru JFK at least 4 times in last 7 years. It is probably true that Disney world in Orlando and other theme parks but from my personal experience, Indian subcontinent and East Asian passengers drive the USA to Dubai route than Middle Eastern passengers. It does sound like most people are not aware of Orlando Demographic and the jobs. Orlando offers high number of technology job. Matter of fact the highest in the State of Florida for IT jobs. It attracts many IT professionals from Subcontinent. Also a sizable portion of people from South Asian lives in the area, mostly in South Orlando area. Miami does not have the same demographic. If you have traveled any of the Emirates flights, you would see more than 50% passenger from South Asian countries (Indian, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Srilanka, & Nepal). It could be more than that. My family travels with Emirates frequently and this seems to be the normal trend. Most people thinks Emirates serve US market for Middle Eastern passengers. It is in fact the Indian Subcontinent that supports the market. If anyone who ever traveled with any of their flights would tell you that.
    The reason it is not serving Miami or Atlanta that is because of Jet Blue. But I can be wrong.
    I strongly believe that Disney world is not the main reason why they are serving Orlando. There are sizable amount of people from Indian Subcontinent in Central from along i4 corridor that will support this service. In a typical emirates flights 50% from Indian Sub-continent, 15% from other Asian countries, 20% business traveler, 15% middle eastern countries.
    A new train service by All Board Florida is coming between the MCO to MIA. It starts later this year. Matter of the Orlando Airport is expanding new terminal to support the new station.

    1. Miami does not have the same demographics – it has far more Indians and a much larger market to the subcontinent. But it also already has Qatar, and flying to Miami doesn’t make a loud statement like flying to Orlando does. Emirates to Miami or Atlanta is expected; flying to Orlando is not.

      1. You are probably partly right. But I was thinking JetBlue is their partner airlines and it does not serve either city. Miami may have more Indian. I don’t know the exact number of course. I can definitely say Atlanta is a great market but I think Delta won’t allow it. Delta serves Dubai from Atlanta

  21. So why Orlando? Allow me to add my two cents to this conversation which has been interesting to read. Directing the air service development efforts at MCO for the last 21 years and the one responsible for bringing EK to MCO, any airport ASD professional will tell you long-haul routes don’t just happen overnight though the EK DXB MCO announcement did catch many people by surprise. It takes years of courting and convincing an airline that your city is the best fit for their airline than all the other airport candidates who are out doing the exact same thing. As a non-hub airport for any of the U.S. legacies MCO has to work that much harder to attract international service. All airports compete because we know air service development is economic development. The more connected our airports are to the world benefits our local economies and helps create local jobs.
    Orlando has a great story to tell. Only 50 years ago, Orlando was a sleepy town nestled between Florida’s east and west coast. The main industry was citrus. Before Walt Disney ever stepped foot in Central Florida, many in Orlando in the 60’s, including my father helped develop lasers for the U.S. space program even before the word ‘high-tech’ was invented. Fast forward and tourism is Orlando’s #1 industry worth $57 Billion dollars annually. Is that a bad thing? With 59 million record visitors in 2014 – more than any other U.S. city, tourism is huge in Central Florida. Thanks to the luxury and high-end products greatly evolving in the last decade has helped to further diversify Orlando’s tourism economy. And tourists coming to Orlando fly in all classes of service.
    The Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission recently launched a new branding campaign – ‘Orlando – you don’t know the half of it’. So true since many have no idea Orlando’s 2nd largest industry is technology – a $30+ Billion dollar annual industry whose roots started in the 1960’s continues strong today. With the 2nd largest convention center in the U.S., Orlando is also the #1 medical meeting market in the U.S. Medical professionals travel from around the globe attending medical conferences in Orlando as well as so many other targeted conventions. Do those medical professionals fly in coach? Probably not and many take advantage of the Orlando convention and bring family with them adding several days to their visit. One airline has already scheduled up gauging several of their MCO December international flights for an Orlando medical convention in order to accommodate the increased demand for MCO business class seats as a result.
    So if you think you know Orlando – you don’t know the half of it.

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