On the one hand, this move seems crazy. They already serve Orlando (MCO), and haven’t even started services to Miami but yet here they are, starting a new flight to Fort Lauderdale, Florida (FLL)
Some might call the airline’s route planning department crazy, but Emirates (EK) has a long, long track record of opening destinations – even with such a large aircraft as the Boeing 777 – and making it work. In the airline’s history, only 3 routes have been opened then closed at some point: Baku, in Azerbaijan, Alexandria in Egypt (both now served by subsidiary FlyDubai) and the Comoros Islands, off the coast of South Eastern Africa in the Indian Ocean (this was 20 years ago, so not entirely relevant to present day EK). Of course the airline has suspended operations to war torn places such as Kiev, Damascus, Tripoli, Baghdad, Peshawar in the interest of safety and to other places during the Ebola epidemic such as Guinea-Conakry and Abidjan but the point stands – the airline knows route strategy.
Well, as they are won’t to do, they have surprised the airline world by announcing FLL, with a start date quite soon – two months to be precise. That’s very quick lead in time for an ultra-long haul route like this one, with advance sales for tickets opening today. The logistics of opening a new route are staggering, so the fact that they are attempting to pull this off (they will) is impressive.
The new Emirates flights will start on December 15, 2016, in time for the holiday season, and will be operated by the airline’s Boeing 777-200LR (Long Range) aircraft, designed for very long flights such as this one. The aircraft features 8 Suites in First Class, 42 lie-flat Business Class seats and 216 seats in a 3-4-3 layout in Economy.
The flights look prime for connections (more on this in a sec) because this the schedule the airline has released to travel companies:
EK 213 Dep DXB 0300 Arr FLL 1025
EK 214 Dep FLL 2020 Arr DXB 1940+1
So the flight leaves during one of the airline’s major departure banks from Dubai and arrives FLL in the late morning, giving many options for flights further afield. Then EK opts to keep the plane in FLL for a whopping 10 hours – not a great use for a valuable 777 frame – to schedule an evening departure from Florida back to Dubai, again allowing for a full day of connections for people to hop on from on to the EK flight.
So we can see that obviously EK is hoping to capitalize on one thing – and it’s the reason they aren’t in Miami but in Fort Lauderdale: JetBlue connections.
JetBlue has a very sizeable hub – second only to their home base at New York JFK – in Fort Lauderdale. Emirates in turn, has a massive codeshare agreement and interline (as in you can through check bags on either airline) with JetBlue to all their destinations. EK already has a ton of their flight codes on JetBlue flights out of JFK to destinations across the United States. Incidentally, you can earn and redeem Emirates SkyWards miles on Jetblue and conversely you can do the same with TrueBlue miles on EK.
We suspect this new flight will tap into connections in the south, Caribbean and to Central America – JetBlue’s main strength out of FLL. Places like Barbados, San Juan, Cancun, Kingston, Nassau, Provendciales, Bogota, Panama City and Bermuda are now a much easier one stop option to Dubai and beyond.
Another thing to look out for is more Mint services (JetBlue’s two class premium product) in and out of FLL as a result of this flight – there will be EK First and Business Class passengers transiting through this flight, so demand for JetBlue’s excellent First Class offering might be warranted. We’ll wait and see on this one.
At the moment EK doesn’t serve any city in these regions, so it’s a good way to tap into the market, get some brand presence and a finger on what markets might be worth starting down the line if they see a particularly strong passenger flow from one city.
So while this is a rather surprising addition on EK’s part in that many thought any one of Miami, Denver, Atlanta, Detroit or Las Vegas were the next of the new US destinations to be opened by the airline, it makes total sense that FLL came up next. That’s Emirates for you – they rarely do the obvious, but they do the pragmatic. It’s how they have become the world’s largest international airline in the span of 25 years.
Will you be partaking on the JetBlue – Emirates partnership any time soon?