Emirates is betting that the Biden administration will lift the Coronavirus travel ban on Europe by June 1 – the date that the Dubai-based airline plans to restart its so-called ‘fifth freedom’ flight between Milan’s Malpensa Airport and New York JFK. Emirates is also hoping to restart another and highly-controversial fifth freedom tag flight from Athens to Newark on the same date.
The government-owned Persian Gulf airline first launched its direct link between Italy’s industrial, commercial and financial capital and New York City in 2013 but was forced to suspend the service when the pandemic struck last March and the airline was all but entirely grounded.
But from June 1, Emirates hopes to resume the service three times per week using one of its Boeing 777-300 aircraft – what could be considered a downgrade from the daily Airbus A380 service that used to ply the route (a plane that was particularly popular with A-list fashion designers that preferred the Emirates service over a private jet).
Emirates said the service would help “facilitate” trade and tourism – but that is, of course, only if tourism is allowed by that point. Thus far, the White House has refused to speculate when a travel ban might be lifted on Europe and a sluggish vaccine rollout on the Continent could prolong travel restrictions.
Like much of mainland Europe, Italy is currently experiencing a deadly third wave of Coronavirus infections and the country’s Prime Minister, Mario Draghi is considering imposing yet more restrictions to arrest a surge in COVID cases.
White House insiders, however, claim President Biden is being talked into lifting the travel bans at some point in May. Such a decision could still be dependent, however, on how well Europe’s vaccine program is going and the epidemiological situation on the continent at that point.
On Tuesday, Emirates said it would also resume direct flights between Dubai and Orlando beginning June 2. The carrier is already flying direct to Boston, New York (JFK), Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington D.C, Seattle, Dallas, Houston, and San Francisco.
When Emirates first launched flights between Athens and Newark in 2017, the inaugural flight was met by hundreds of protestors who feared the airline was muscling in on United’s share of the market.
Neither protestors nor a pandemic, it would seem, can stop Emirates from operating the route. Although, like so many things in a pandemic, could easily change by the time we get to June.
Photo Credit: Karol Ciesluk / Shutterstock.com
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.