Emirates And Qatar Airways: How Their United States Networks Compare

Emirates and Qatar Airways have 24 routes to the US, based on a week in mid-October. Qatar is the larger operator, with its US capacity up by a whopping 60% versus 2019. We examine what both airlines are doing and look back to 2019 to see where passengers actually went.

Emirates A380
Three US airports welcome Emirates’ A380s. Photo: Emirates.

Emirates has 12 routes to the US

The largest of the so-called Middle East Big Three airlines, Emirates has 12 routes from Dubai to the US in October. In a random week in the middle of that month, some 78 outbound flights will operate equivalent to about 11 daily.

With 19 weekly flights, New York JFK is by far the most served. In fact, it is down by just two weekly services versus the pre-pandemic, although a change in equipment – from all-A380 to A380 and B777-300ER – means the volume of seats for sale has reduced by one-fifth. That decision was probably an excellent call while also ensuring more cargo capacity, seemingly more important now than ever.

  • New York JFK: 19 outbound weekly flights; A380 (12) and B777-300ER (7)
  • Los Angeles: 7; A380
  • Chicago: 7; B777-300ER
  • Newark: 7; B777-300ER
  • Boston: 5; B777-300ER
  • Dallas: 5; B777-200LR
  • Washington: 5; A380
  • Houston: 5; B777-200LR
  • Seattle: 5; B777-200LR
  • San Francisco: 5; B777-300ER
  • Orlando: 4; B777-200LR
  • Miami: 4; B777-300ER
Emirates to the US
Four of Emirates’ US routes are over 8,000 miles, led by Dubai-Los Angeles (8,339 miles). Image: GCMap

Miami is new this year

Emirates’ routes include Miami, 7,845 miles away, which began earlier this year to replace Fort Lauderdale. With a block time to the US of 15 hours and 50 minutes and 75 minutes less the other way, it is served four-weekly – the same as Fort Lauderdale.

But the markets aren’t the same. While Fort Lauderdale had little problem filling the aircraft, it did so on the back of lower average fares than other US routes. It is expected that Miami will perform better while also being a much larger market, although equally with more competition.

Emirates Boeing 777-300ER
Miami has longer runways than Fort Lauderdale, enabling the B777-300ER to be used. This type has superior economics to the smaller B777-200LR. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

Two US routes are one-stop

While 10 of the 12 routes are non-stop, two stop en route in Europe: Dubai to Newark via Athens and Dubai to New York JFK via Milan Malpensa. Both have fifth freedom traffic rights, with Athens-Newark providing the only non-stop winter option between Athens and the wider New York area.

Emirates A380
Emirates began Dubai-Milan-JFK in 2013. While initially by the B777-300ER, the A380 was used from 2015 to 2020. It is back in the hands of the -300ER. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

83% of passengers transited Dubai

In 2019, the last normal year, Emirates carried approximately 3.6 million passengers to Dubai and beyond, data from the Department of Transportation (DOT) indicates. It had a seat load factor (SLF) of 81.8%.

It’s always exciting to look deeper into where passengers carried by network airlines actually go. Emirates, a ‘super connector’, is very much about flowing passengers over its Dubai hub. Booking data estimates that about 67% of its US traffic transited Dubai. This rose to 83% if ‘bridging’ passengers (e.g., those flying Raleigh Durham-JFK-Dubai-Hyderabad) are included.

Emirates B777-200LR
Four US destinations see the B777-200LR. Photo: Cory W. Watts via Wikimedia.

JFK to Dhaka was the largest market

While you’ll know that Emirates is enormously about South Asia from the US, you might not realize that it carried over five times more people to this region than to its second-largest market, the Middle East.

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The importance of the Middle East shines through when the largest 10 country markets are considered: India, Pakistan, South Africa, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Thailand, Iran, Jordan, and Egypt. But the largest origins and destinations were all about South Asia:

  1. JFK-Dhaka
  2. San Francisco-Bangalore
  3. JFK-Mumbai
  4. Dallas-Hyderabad
  5. San Francisco-Hyderabad
  6. JFK-Delhi
  7. San Francisco-Mumbai
  8. JFK-Hyderabad
  9. Washington-Hyderabad
  10. Seattle-Hyderabad
EK201 Dubai to JFK
En route to JFK at the time of writing is EK201, today by a six-year-old A380. Image: RadarBox.com.

Qatar Airways is larger to the US than Emirates

Like Emirates, Qatar Airways also has 12 US routes in this mid-October period. But unlike Emirates, it has over 50% more flights and over one-quarter more seats for sale, analyzing OAG data confirms.

Qatar Airways’ proportionally fewer additional seats than flights is because its average number of US seats per flight is 317 against Emirates’ 383. Three-quarters of Emirates’ flights are by high-capacity A380 (~517 seats) or B777-300ER (~354 seats). In contrast, seven in ten of Qatar’s flights are by equipment with fewer than 327 seats: the B777-200LR (272 seats); A350-900 (283); and A350-1000 (323).

The US is a notably bigger market for Qatar Airways than Emirates, both absolutely and concerning total seats in the examined week. While the US has 7.3% of Emirates’ capacity, it’s 11.5% for Qatar. The growing relationship between Qatar and American and Alaska Airlines helps, with all three operators oneworld members.

Qatar A350-1000
Qatar has more US flights by the A350-1000 than any other aircraft. Photo: Vincenzo Pace – Simple Flying.

Qatar Airways has 12 US routes

Qatar Airways has dramatically increased the number of US seats for sale this October week versus 2019, up as they are almost 60%. In contrast, Emirates has cut 27%. Seattle and San Francisco have been launched, pushing its network to 12 US airports.

Of the 10 routes that existed then as now, a whopping six routes have more service than they did, especially Dallas and Chicago, which have doubled to 14-weekly. Only Atlanta has seen a reduction in flights, from seven-weekly to five. The Georgia route, which launched five years ago, initially saw B777-300ERs and B777-200LRs, but lower-capacity A350-900s are now exclusively used.

  • JFK: 19 outbound weekly flights; B777-300ER (13), A350-900 (five), A350-1000 (1)
  • Dallas: 14; B777-200LR (7) and A350-1000 (7)
  • Chicago: 14; B777-300ER (9) and B777-200LR (5)
  • Washington: 12; A350-1000 (6) and A350-900 (6)
  • Los Angeles: 12; A350-1000
  • Boston: 7; A350-900
  • Houston: 7; A350-1000
  • Miami: 7; B777-300ER
  • Philadelphia: 7; A350-900
  • Seattle: 7; B777-300ER
  • San Francisco: 7; A350-1000
  • Atlanta: 5; A350-900
Qatar Airways to the US
The average distance of Qatar’s US routes is 7,417 miles. Image: GCMap.

Surprisingly, Southeast Asia was the #2 region

In 2019, some 2.1 million passengers flew Qatar Airways to/from the US, the DOT shows, with an average SLF of 81.9%, virtually identical to Emirates.

Obviously, South Asia was the biggest region, with India and Pakistan the carrier’s two largest countries. However, Southeast Asia was second-largest, as reflected in its top-10 country markets: India, Pakistan, Iran, Bangladesh, Nepal, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Kuwait, and Sri Lanka.

Qatar B777-300ER
The B777-300ER has more flights to JFK than any other US airport. Photo: Qatar Airways.

JFK to Dhaka was the #1 market

Qatar’s largest market in Southeast Asia was Indonesia, with JFK to Denpasar and Jakarta having the most passengers. However, neither was big enough to fall into the top-10 origins and destinations, as shown below.

Indeed, JFK-Dhaka was top, as it was with Emirates, but the passenger volume wasn’t far ahead of Los Angeles to Yerevan. This market is very much driven by the huge Armenian population in the Greater Los Angeles area.

  1. JFK-Dhaka
  2. Los Angeles-Yerevan
  3. Miami-Manila
  4. JFK-Kathmandu
  5. Los Angeles-Tehran Imam Khomeini
  6. Atlanta-Hyderabad
  7. Atlanta-Ahmedabad
  8. Houston-Karachi
  9. Atlanta-Mumbai
  10. Washington-Tehran Imam Khomeini

What are your experiences of flying to Doha or Dubai from the US? Let us know in the comments.