Does Emirates Really Need Its Mexico City Route?

It’s been more than a month since Emirates introduced its new route between Dubai and Mexico, with a stop in Barcelona. This route was probably the most controversial in Mexican history. So let’s answer two questions: was Emirates really interested in the market between the UAE and Mexico and does Emirates really need this route?

Emirates flies between Dubai and Mexico with a stop in Barcelona. Photo: Emirates

The data doesn’t lie

The Tourism Ministry of Mexico published data about the number of tourist entries to the country by their residence and by nationality. Since 2012, just 14,993 people with residence in the UAE have come to Mexico by air. And a total of 3,622 people with an Emirati passport have come to Mexico since 2012.

To put it in perspective: between January and November of 2019, over 58,000 people came to Mexico from Australia. This market is the largest unserved in the Latin American country. Still, we’re not seeing Qantas or Aeromexico launching a direct route between Sydney and Mexico City.


Poland also has sent a big flux of tourists to Mexico, with over 220,000 since 2012. South Africa, Denmark, and Indonesia are other countries with more tourists in Mexico than the UAE.


So, it seems that there are a lot of other countries more interested in Mexico than the UAE. Still, Emirates launched a weekly operation between Dubai and Mexico City last 9th December. Mexico became the last country with over 100 million people to have a flight of Emirates.

Emirates landing in Mexico
Emirates landing in Mexico. Photo: Emirates

Barcelona is the sweet spot

Scott Lantz, Area Manager for Mexico, Central America, Caribbean, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia & Chile at Emirates, said the carrier needed Barcelona as a stopover.


“It’s our right. If we don’t operate commercially in Barcelona, the route to Mexico City is not interesting to us,” said Lantz during the introduction of the route.

So, let’s see the numbers again. A total of 2,118,948 people residing in Spain came to Mexico via air since 2012. Also, Spain is a monster in the tourist department, with over 83.7 international visitors just in 2019. So, clearly, there is a market between both countries beyond the cultural ties. For Emirates, it was as clear as water.

Emirates had the fifth freedom to operate between Dubai and Mexico City. The carrier just had to pick the city of choice. Among the candidates were Copenhagen, Milan, Geneva, Stockholm, Lisbon, Zurich and, obviously, Barcelona.

This fifth freedom made Aeromexico really unhappy. As Aeromexico’s CEO, Andrés Conesa, said: Emirates wanted a mature market to build its operation to Mexico.

Emirates B777-200LR Economy Class
Emirates B777-200LR Economy Class. Photo: Emirates

One can only wait to see the results

All this data I’ve shown is the panorama Emirates faced before entering the Mexican market. Currently, neither the airline nor the Mexican government have published new information that may show the success of the Dubai-based carrier.

So, maybe in a few months, we will see an increase in the number of visitors coming from the UAE. But at this moment, what we can see is that Aeromexico was right in its claim. Emirates wasn’t really interested in the route from Dubai.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments.


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Emirates’ business model has virtually nothing to do with transporting Emiratis or people residing in the UAE. Emirati visit numbers are low in all countries, because there are just not that many people living in the UAE and far fewer people with Emirati passports. The real question is whether there is demand for travel between Mexico and other markets served by Emirates, including Barcelona, but also India, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, etc. There was no year-round service between Mexico City and Barcelona before Emirates’ entry into the market. If there was a slam-dunk business case for that route, why didn’t Aeromexico… Read more »


Well there are many reasons. 1, many passengers between Spain and Mexico and in the same time Spain and UAE. 2, They developed code-share agreement with domestic airlines . 3, Expand network. In the past was Mexico City served by Qantas, SAS had routes to Brazil. BA had many destination in Australia and probably New Zeland. Many airlines stoped very long haul flights between 10 and 20 hours . Today only Air France /KLM, IAG from Europe have so extensive network of routes. But both airlines do not fly to Australia to more airports than one airport like it was… Read more »


The fact that not that many people are traveling between MEX and DXB is not surprising.

If you look at Emirates’ entire network design, it’s not designed around origin/destination traffic to/from Dubai. It’s designed around onward connections. Emirates is trying to carry a lot more people between MEX and, for instance, a couple of dozen destinations in India.


Excellent point.!
Emirates are looking at an existing market to help fill their empty seats between Barcelona & Mexico City….. but undoubtedly, they’re expecting to put a substantial number of people on the aircraft at Dubai for through transfer to Mexico City…… & almost none of those boarding in Dubai, will actually be from Dubai, but will have arrived there on an previous Emirates flight.


Testing..testing after I post my comment it never appears on screen?

Chris Loh

Hi Gary – I believe first time commentors need to be approved but after the first one is cleared all subsequent comments post right away.


Test test
My comments haven’t been showing in the comment section?


MEX-BCN-MEX unserved


I live in Mexico and have flown Emirates 3 times in the past 2 years to Dubai – twice as a stopover to Karachi and once as a stopover to Bangalore. Each of the three times I have flown Emirates’ JFK to Dubai route, spending time in New York visiting family and friends. Next time I will fly the Mexico City – Barcelona – Dubai route. I welcome such a great airlines as Emirates to Mexico. I also am certain that Mexican airlines don’t like foreign competition. Another great (and low fare) airlines – JetBlue ended service to Mexico earlier… Read more »

Adam Simmons

Bear in mind that filling an aircraft is easy. Filling an aircraft PROFITABLY is somewhat more challenging.

Guilherme Braga

Emirates does this here in Rio de Janeiro. Their flight is DXB – GIG – EZE. The demand between Rio and Buenos Aires justifies it.

Francesc Arcos

The demand for BCN-MEX is there, and it’s huge, but I honestly don’t see the type of high yield traffic all airlines dream of there. The local business world in Barcelona/Catalonia is made of SMEs and self-employed mostly, plus the interest of the Luxury travel sector for Mexico is rather low at least from the Spanish side. Student and Visit Family & Relatives traffic is guaranteed though.

Fernando Javier

The fact that the author of the article can’t seem to think of the connections into Dubai and onwards to Mexico as generating demand for seats on Dubai to Mexico flight is really bizarre. I mean, all the other articles on Emirates on this site refers to them being some sort of superconnector of some sort and this article conveniently leaves it out and just talks about UAE visitors… sounds like someone from Aeromexico or big brother Delta dictated it lol. Good on the other commenters who picked up on it. I’m happy to take Emirates when the schedule is… Read more »


Don’t forget Emirates operate a hub-and-spoke business model, and a very small percentage of their passengers actually originate in Dubai. I live in Cape Town and I use Emirates to get anywhere in the world. I will definitely be flying from Cape Town via Dubai and Barcelona when I’m travelling to Mexico. The alternatives are to use code sharing flights with some really unpleasant or expensive operators. Likewise you can expect to see visitors from many other countries also using this route. South East Asia, Middle East, India and so on, come to mind.

Luis De Stefano

Flying nonstop MEX-DXB is 7750NM, slightly more than SIN-LAX, a very long route that can only be justified because there are 2 large and rich cities at both ends. Further, in this case the mission flies over Iceland, so MEX-KEF-DXB would be the shortest one-stop option with Reykjavik conveniently located midroute. Trouble is the 300,000 Icelanders are not going to support much traffic in either direction. Opting for MEX-BCN-DXB they are extending the mission by 2.3%, or 25′ flying time, not counting the stopover, but they do have both Mexicans going to Spain and Spaniards going to Mexico. Barcelona is… Read more »


“Flying nonstop MEX-DXB is 7750NM, slightly more than SIN-LAX, a very long route that can only be justified because there are 2 large and rich cities at both ends.”

EK can make MEX-DXB non-stop theoretically. But, MEX’s high elevation prevents that from happening. And passengers are not the only element EK is looking at, but may also be freight. Trade between Mexico and Middle East and South Asia and Asia Pacific can be bolstered. And if EK can fill its aircraft cargo belly to the brim, that can bring in significant income too, more so than paying passengers.

Luis De Stefano

Just a few numbers. There are some 400,000 Spaniards visiting Mexico each year by air, and 500,000 Mexicans going to Spain. That comes to 900,000 people per year or 2,500 per day on average. That is 8-10 daily flights, depending on aircraft type. MEX airport reports 400,000 people (for pax double the figure) per year on the MEX-MAD route. That clearly indicates that the capitals just take roughly half the traffic. There is of course CUN-MEX with some 80,000 people per year, both figures supplied by airport authorities, so that leaves roughly 420,000 people per year between Mexicans and Spaniards… Read more »