Emirates’ long-planned flights to Mexico City have hit another roadblock with a judge in Mexico blocking Emirate’s plan to begin flights on December 9, 2019. Mexico City has been a long and tortuous journey for Emirates and it looks like it’s not over yet.
Emirates had planned to fly between Dubai and Mexico City via Barcelona. Because of the high altitude of Mexico City’s airport (it’s 2,238 meters above sea level), Emirates can’t fly direct to Mexico City. Under the existing air services agreement between Mexico and the UAE, Emirates has the right to operate fifth freedom flights between Barcelona and Mexico City.
And that was a canny plan by Emirates. Barcelona is the largest European city without year-round direct flights from Mexico City.
Mexico proves tough for Emirates
Emirates has long wanted to fly into Mexico City. An attempt a couple of years ago to fly in via Zurich was thwarted by Swiss authorities. In 2018, Emirates was set to go with daily flights via Barcelona but dropped the proposal after Mexico wouldn’t allow daily flights. Mexico would only allow thrice-weekly flights but Emirates rejected this, saying it wasn’t commercially viable.
But that proved to be a temporary setback. In July 2019, the Dubai-Barcelona-Mexico City was back on the agenda after lengthy talks with Mexico’s Government. Emirates announced daily flights using a Boeing 777-200LR and started selling tickets. At the time, Mexico’s Tourism Minister, Miguel Torruco Marques said;
“Mexico 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. We are eager to receive tourists from this part of the world.”
Some fierce kickback from AeroMexico
So that sounded promising. But almost immediately, local flag carrier AeroMexico hit back and asked the Mexican Government to reverse a decision allowing the Emirates fifth freedom flight between Barcelona and Mexico City.
AeroMexico is a privately owned airline with a range of investors (including a Citibank subsidiary and, of course, Delta Air Lines). The local carrier operates seasonal flights to Barcelona, but doesn’t see profitability in making them all year round. AeroMexico CEO Andrés Conesa Labastida was reported in CH-Aviation in July this year saying;
Firstly, because we have seen strong demand on the route, but also as a response to the Mexican government’s disappointing decision to grant fifth freedom flying rights to Emirates, to fly from Dubai Int’l to Barcelona to Mexico City, in spite of the state subsidies Emirates receives from the UAE government. “
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The comments are interesting because they reveal AeroMexico’s resistance to Emirates is not necessarily based on mere competition, but rather the unfair advantages, real or perceived, Emirates has.
Lack of hard information on the court’s decision
Is the concept of unfair advantage the driver behind AeroMexico’s decision to take the matter to the Mexican Courts? One Mile At A Time is reporting on the decision just made by an unnamed Judge in an unnamed Mexican Court blocking Emirates’ rights to operate the fifth freedom flight between Barcelona and Mexico City, effectively canceling the planned December start.
The One Mile At A Time report is based on a report in Mexico’s El Universal which provides no further information, simply noting the planned flights “cannot be made” and that Emirates would schedule a press conference to discuss the matter.
But as One Mile At A Time notes, it is odd that a court would block a commercial decision that is both legal and considered by the Mexican Government to be advantageous to Mexico.
Simple Flying spoke to a representative of Emirates who told us: “We firmly believe that the MOU is valid and the ruling of the court will be the subject of an appeal by the Government of Mexico. Pending the outcome of this appeal all our rights remain valid and in force.”
Updated 11:25 UTC with comment from Emirates