Emirates has finally announced a date the launch of a long-awaited but controversial new flight between Barcelona and Mexico City. The Dubai-based airline intends to start flying between Spain’s second largest city and the capital of Mexico on the 9th December with a daily service operated by a Boeing 777-200LR in a two-class configuration with 38 Business Class seats and 264 Economy Class seats.
The new service will see Emirates going head-to-head with Mexican flag carrier Aeromexico who only launched a thrice-weekly service between the two cities last month. Barcelona is only the fifth European destination to be served by Aeromexico and the decision is widely seen as a direct response to Emirates’ plans to enter the Mexican market.
Emirates has wanted to operate flights to Mexico for a number of years but direct flights between Dubai and Mexico City would be completely uneconomical – that’s because of Mexico City’s high altitude which would mean Emirates would have to impose load and cargo restrictions to operate a direct service.
Sir Tim Clark, president of Emirates explained: “Due to the high altitude of Mexico City airport, it is not possible to operate a non-stop flight from Dubai, and Barcelona was a natural choice for a stopover.”
Instead, Emirates has been seeking approval for what’s referred to as a “fifth freedom” flight – in this case, the flight will fly between Dubai and Barcelona where it will drop off and pick up passengers before continuing on to Mexico City. Emirates obtained the necessary regulatory approvals from both Mexican and Spanish authorities last year but then abruptly announced that they wouldn’t, in fact, launch the flight.
It’s believed Emirates pulled the plug on the service because the Mexican authorities were only willing to grant landing rights for a 3x weekly service – the same as Aeromexico’s service. Emirates didn’t think this was worthwhile and wanted landing rights for a daily service. It now looks like authorities have been able to hammer out a deal and the service is back on and as Emirates originally intended.
The chief executive of Aeromexico has been less than impressed with Emirates’ plan and has threatened the airline with “all the legal mechanisms that are within our reach” to prevent it from happening.
Andrés Conesa Labastid was quoted as saying last year:
“They (Emirates) do not contribute anything, they must not be here and must not displace Mexican sources of employment. If you want to open a Mexico-Dubai flight we have no problem, but not Mexico-Barcelona.”
The argument is similar to the one pedaled by North American airlines who have run a high-profile campaign against the expansion of Persian Gulf airlines into the U.S. market. So-called Fifth Freedom flights have been the source of much concern and an Emirates flight between Athens and Newark was once dubbed “the most controversial flight in the world”.
Sir Tim, however, claim’s Emirates was obliged to offer service between Barcelona and Mexico City because the route has “long been neglected” by other airlines:
“We are pleased to offer a direct connection on the route between the Spanish city and Mexico City that has long been neglected by other airlines and remains underserved despite the strong customer demand. We would like to thank the authorities and our partners in both Spain and Mexico for their support of the new route and look forward to providing our unique product and award-winning service to travellers.”
Mexico’s Minister of Tourism, Miguel Torruco Marqués, said his country “supports the launch of the long-awaited flight Dubai-Barcelona-Mexico City, which responds to Mexico’s Government tourism policy towards opening new markets and strengthening connectivity between the Middle East and Mexico.”