Emirates Airline today, is the largest Middle Eastern carrier flying into Europe. Even amidst rapid expansion by Qatar Airways and neighbouring Etihad Airways, Emirates' growth has been phenomenal. And it is this growth that has sparked furious reactions about the Dubai based airline from its European peers. Emirates already boasts an extensive route network into Europe. Where else could it expand in Europe?
At present, Emirates operates to 26 destinations in Europe, which accounts for almost all of major European cities. The following map depicts the present European destination range of Emirates.
Emirates has already announced its plans to launch flights to Dublin, Ireland, this year while extra flights too have been announced to Paris and Venice. The airline will be upgrading capacity to Athens, Copenhagen, Dublin (yes, not a typo), Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Larnaca, London, Malta, Manchester, Munich and Nice. Emirates is also due to take delivery of about 7 Airbus A380s and over 10 Boeing 777-300ERs this year.
Looking at the above map shows us some key European destinations that are still missing from the Emirates' map. These include
While some secondary cities such as Belgrade and Budapest are missing from this list - Emirates can never realistically expect to serve these smaller cities with its all wide-body fleet. This gives Qatar Airways and Gulf Air an edge, which the Dubai Inc. appears to be trying tackle with flydubai.
-When it comes to Europe, Barcelona must now be in the top of Emirates' list as a new destination to be added in 2012. The Spanish city is closely following on Madrid, and has proven to be a vibrant destination for many airlines. Qatar Airways is likely to increase its Barcelona flights very soon, and Emirates will be inclined to react. With its Madrid flight now well developed, it is only natural that Emirates takes its next attempt at conquering Barcelona.
-Berlin is another destination that Emirates has long wanted to serve - its first attempt being in 2000 with its then subsidiary SriLankan Airlines, on a Colombo - Dubai - Berlin flight which was code-shared by EK. However, unfortunately Emirates has become a victim of bilaterals in this case, and is unlikely to be able to serve Berlin anytime soon. The reason - it has already exceeded the number of allowed German destinations per the bilateral air service agreement between the Germany and the UAE which means that it should give up one of its present German destinations in order to open a new one, which is something very unlikely to expect from Emirates. On a side note, Etihad made creative use of this opportunity to get AirBerlin, in which now it owns a 29% stake, to operate on the Berln - Abu Dhabi route.
-While one of the most politically important European cities, and is already served by Etihad, it is doubtful that Emirates will venture into Brussels very soon. A key factor for this is that there is little connectivity potential from South Asia - one of Emirates' strongest markets - to Brussels, while Africa - Brussels traffic flow is already well taken care of by Brussels Airlines. This is not to say that Brussels is nowhere in Emirates' wishlist - but rather that it has more important destinations to tap into before Brussels. Nevertheless, Emirates is known to make surprising moves and an announcement could come sooner than we expect - specially taking into account the weak coverage of both Brussels Airlines and Etihad in the Far East region and the fact that Emirates can leverage its already strong position in this region to develop the market. It could be high yielding too, with sustainable Business traffic flowing out of the Far East.
Edinburgh (UPDATE: Within hours of publishing this article, Emirates announced its second daily flight to Glasgow - which means that an Edinburgh launch is unlikely in the near horizon)
-The only major UK city presently not served by Emirates, Edinburgh is definitely in EK's wish list. But when Emirates will decide to launch a flight to Edinburgh is a matter only the time will tell. This decision could be influenced by a number of reasons. Edinburgh has a rather short runway, and it could prove a challenge for a fully loaded Airbus A330 - the smallest in EK's fleet and the only suitable aircraft - on some days. And that very reason means that EK will not be able to upgrade the capacity for this route on its usual path of A330-200 >> 777-300ER >> A380. And in fact, will leave the route obsolete once Emirates phases out the A330s. Apart from that, if Emirates decides to add an extra daily flight to Glasgow - this could kill the route's potential too. Yet, Turkish Airlines has already announced that it intends to serve Edinburgh - and we could see a protective response from Emirates by launching flights before Turkish moves in. Adding capacity to Glasgow will be a lower cost option, while a competitor capturing a new market could prove a threat. Whether Emirates adds a second daily flight to Glasgow or launches flights to Edinburgh, should be clear within this year.
-Although Emirates is keen to expand in Scandinavia, Helsinki is likely to be one of the places that will feature the last in Emirates' Scandinavian expansion. Finnair already has a stronghold in Asia markets while there is virtually no traffic between Finland and Africa. This makes Helsinki a rather unattractive choice for Emirates, at least for the moment.
-Yet to receive any service from any Gulf carrier, Lisbon is unlikely to receive an Emirates service soon. With only a very little demand into Asia, and not high in yield - Lisbon must be at the very end of Emirates' wish list. However, there is a significant possibility that Qatar Airways might set its foot on the Portugese city. Also a possibility is a South American flight operating via Lisbon, with 5th freedom rights, by any of the three leading Mid East carriers.
-The Norwegian capital is certainly a point of interest for EK - and could likely come online in either 2012 or 2013. However, Oslo is likely to become Emirates' third Scandinavian destination rather than the second. Let's move on to the next.
-The Swedish capital is certain to receive an Emirates service this year - and will likely become EK's second Scandinavian destination over Oslo. There is strong potential for Emirates at Stockholm and will be a real challenge to Qatar Airways.
-The growing Polish capital is an omission from the Emirates network for the moment. However, things are likely to be different, soon. The success of Emirates' Prague route will determine the timing for a Warsaw route's launch. Warsaw is a route with too high a yield for flydubai and Emirates will likely not let Qatar to become the first mover into Warsaw. However, Warsaw does not appear to be an immediate priority for EK.
Going by the above analysis, we can safely assume Emirates to launch flights to the following European cities in 2012 - ranked by priority.
- Barcelona - Daily flights with any aircraft from Airbus A330-200 to Airbus A340-500 to Boeing 777-200LR in size.
- Stockholm - Daily flights with very likely an Airbus A330-200.
- Brussels - If Brussels, is an article for 2012, it will obviously be a daily Airbus A330-200.
- Edinburgh - IF Emirates goes ahead. A daily Airbus A330-200.
Apart from these, I expect the following European cities to receive their second daily Emirates flight - Amsterdam, Madrid and also Glasgow if the Edinburgh launch does not take place. The following three cities will likely receive their third daily Emirates flight too - Birmingham, Milan and Zurich. Moscow (Domodedovo) is set to be an exciting route this year, too - with the high probability of Emirates either upgrading one of the existing flights to an Airbus A380-800 or adds a third daily flight.
Do you agree with these 'predictions' or think that I have missed something? Please leave a comment.