Last updated: 01:50 PM ET, Wed June 03 2015

Emirates: US Is Our Key Market

Airlines & Airports | Rich Thomaselli | June 03, 2015

Emirates: US Is Our Key Market

Etihad Airways has spoken.

Qatar Airways has spoken.

Now Emirates Airline, the third of the three major Persian Gulf carriers accused by the big three U.S. airlines of accepting government subsidies and skewering the international travel market, has spoken.

Although not nearly as defiant and demonstrative as its Middle East counterpart, Emirates brought out Vice-President of Sales for the USA Matthias Schmid to speak to selected media this week about the airline’s newest route when it starts service from Dubai to Orlando in September.

Schmid only vaguely touched on the raging Open Skies Agreement debate that has engulfed – pardon the pun – U.S. airlines, to the point where American, Delta and United have asked the Obama administration to review the matter. But the government isn’t likely to tackle the issue until year’s end, and in the meantime the Persian Gulf carriers continue to add U.S. routes, infuriating the domestic airlines.

“The U.S. market is our key strategic growth market. That is nothing that is new,” Schmid told “We started in 2004 and didn’t immediately fly to the U.S. because the industry didn’t have an aircraft that flies 14, 15, 16 hours non-stop. Now we do, and in an economical way. The U.S. is high on our radar.”

Orlando will be Emirates’ 10th U.S. destination. Schmid said when you count the surrounding areas – including Tampa and Jacksonville, even though they have their own international airports but are just a two-hour drive from Orlando – you are talking 12 million people.

He expects a healthy balance between leisure travelers heading to Disney, Universal and the theme parks, as well as business travelers, particularly from the aerospace industry at nearby Cape Canaveral.

“We believe this is a very strong gateway for us,” he said of Orlando. “We expect a significant amount of corporate travel between Dubai and Orlando.”

And it won’t be the end, either.

“That’s definitely not going to be the end,” Schmid said. “We will grow in the U.S. market.”

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