Following a fraught legal battle, the Dubai-based Emirates airline has today finally launched a controversial service between Barcelona and Mexico City – the inaugural flight is expected to arrive in the Mexican capital at around 4.30pm local time this afternoon. The first leg of the journey between Dubai and Barcelona took off in the early hours using a recently refurbished Boeing 777-200LR full to capacity with 300 passengers on board.
Guests onboard the inaugural service – which is known as a “Fifth Freedom” flight because Emirates is allowed to sell tickets solely for the Barcelona to Mexico City leg – included the ambassadors of both countries, along with the airline’s VP of operations for the Americas. The “high profile delegation” showed the importance of this new service said an Emirates spokesperson before the flight departed Dubai.
The airline had, however, faced significant opposition when it originally announced plans for the new daily service in July. The Association of Mexican Pilots (ASPA) claimed the government’s decision to allow Emirates to enter the market would be detrimental to local airlines and put Mexican jobs at risk. The union implored the government to rescind its approval for the route for the sake of local jobs.
José Suarez Valdez, press secretary of the BLADE Mexican pilots union, meanwhile, claimed passengers would eventually lose out when Emirates put the competition out of business and then hiked up its prices.
It’s a similar argument used against Emirates in several other markets the airline has entered – although there’s very little evidence to prove those concerns have ever materialised.
Aeromexico was so concerned about the threat posed by Emirates it even sought an injunction in an attempt to stop its expansion into Mexico. Surprisingly, a judge sided with Aeromexico on a technicality and for a while, it looked like Emirates might have to delay its arrival.
The Mexican government, though, wasn’t having any of it and quickly pushed through the necessary approvals to clear the way for Emirates.
Aeromexico only started flying between Mexico City and Barcelona earlier this year – apparently in direct response to the threat posed by Emirates. Despite some criticism, Emirates’ arrival into the market is expected to be widely welcomed.
Ahead of its inaugural flight, Emirates announced it had penned an expanded interline deal with Mexican low-cost carrier InterJet.