How US Airlines Benefit from Gulf Carrier Service

Centre for Aviation has an interesting piece on the interdependence between US airlines (which don’t service the vast route network in India and surrounding countries that the Gulf airlines do) and Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar — and makes the case that the US airlines benefit from Gulf carrier service to the States.

Etihad in Mar-2015 said it placed 180,000 passengers onto US carrier networks in 2014 – 493 a day – as well as 50,000 in the first two months of 2015, or 847 a day; around a fifth of Etihad’s US passengers connect to a US airline.

…It is understood about half of Delta’s Dubai passengers have an interline connection to Emirates. United’s interlines even include one with flydubai, which receives approximately 400 passengers a week, the LCC has said. Although flydubai does not serve North America, it has the same ownership as Emirates and allegations put against Emirates could be used towards flydubai as well. flydubai is also an important partner to sister Emirates.

The Benefit to American from Working With Gulf Carriers

89% of connecting passengers on Etihad’s Los Angeles passengers come from places not served by US airlines, and about 15% of those passengers connect onto US airlines.

On Delta CEO Richard Anderson’s strange powers: “Mr Al Baker also opined that American Airlines CEO Doug Parker was under the influence of Delta Air Lines CEO Richard Anderson.”

American did discuss a tie-up with Emirates, indeed I chatted with the then-head of Emirates Skywards in 2011 before a meeting he had with the then-President of the AAdvantage program (now American’s Chief Technology Officer) in New York.

The author thinks that American could do well with its own Dallas – Abu Dhabi service, operated by a Boeing 777-300ER. That’s more the sort of route the plane is made for (alongside Hong Kong service) than the London flights it’s currently used predominantly for.

However, Etihad scaled back plans to increase frequency on the route precisely because they’re not doing as well as hoped. And American is now codesharing with Etihad on the route and has deepened its frequent flyer partnership. Thus it should extract as much from the relationship as it can — presumably it would love to see Etihad go daily with the flight, and bring it more passengers, but would prefer not to operate the route itself if Etihad isn’t able to sustain more than three flights weekly. They face tough competition from oneworld partner Qatar’s Doha flight and from the Emirates Airbus A380 that’s not carrying its own weight to Dallas (it wasn’t filling the plane when it was operated by a 777).

JetBlue, Alaska, and Emirates for the Win

Orlando expansion for Emirates makes sense as the single largest beyond-market in the Emirates-JetBlue partnership. More passengers continuing on JetBlue were headed to Orlando than anywhere else.

And JetBlue’s new Orlando – Mexico City service is created precisely to bring Emirates passengers to Mexico. Emirates also gets more efficient access to JetBlue’s Caribbean routes from Orlando versus connections in New York.

This explains the strong opposition that JetBlue has voiced to efforts by United, Delta, and American to attack service to the US by the large Gulf airlines.

Emirates is going double daily with Seattle to build on its Alaska Airlines partnership as well the way it’s been building with JetBlue.

US Carriers Keep on Attacking

The coalition of Delta, United, and American claim to have grassroots support for their political campaign against Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar Airways.

Grassroots support is usually thought to mean ‘people at large’. If that were true it would be about the only thing for which US airlines have support from the public. It turns out, though, that for the US airlines “grassroots” means “US lawmakers, local chambers of commerce and local unions.” Like Bill Shuster.

Meanwhile a financial analyst suggests the dispute with Gulf carriers is even hurting United’s stock price. I suspect it’s more noise, rather than a driver of share price, but not all agree.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. India remains the key to the Gulf carriers’ success, and if the US airlines were serious about competing, they would utilize the abilities of the 787 and provide more direct US-India flights. Although US airlines service will probably never live up to their Gulf competitors, being able to offer direct flights would at least even the score. There are a number of routes that would likely be viable, including SFO-DEL, IAD-DEL/BOM, JFK-DEL/BOM (certainly an AA Dreamliner could compete with AI). One could really go nuts and start an all-business class SJC-BLR (the silicon route). It’s long, but still 800 miles shorter than the JFK-SIN route that flew for years.

  2. I for one have not flown US metal internationally for a long time, preferring instead using AF to Europe and EK to Africa and they both serve these markets well. AF has a solid business class product and of course EK is at the top of it’s game in Business / FC. Far superior to any US carrier, bar none. DL is the cry baby on the corner yet they have old planes, older FA’s, poor food service ( they just cram everything on one tray) )saying here it is ! UGH UA and the old USAir planes are very old smelly interiors ( ghetto birds I believe ) If you get a newer UA or AA plane you can bank on it that it was either an old American or CO bird because Parker would never agree to nice interiors!

    My international travel plans are set for the next two years and they comprise awards ( thank you AS) as well as paid travel. AF & EK. and yes paying on EK especially when it comes to 2 for 1 to Africa in Business

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