MIAMI — Emirates will become the third carrier to fly the Airbus A380 from Dubai (DXB) to Washington Dulles (IAD) from February 1, 2016, joining Air France and British Airways in operating the superjumbo to the nation’s capital. The current daily Boeing 777-300ER service will be upgauged to a 3-class Airbus A380 seating 489 ( 14F/76 J/399Y ) or 517 ( 14F/76 J/427Y ), utilizing the same schedule as the current flights (see below).


Stepping up at Dulles in the wake of United’s departure

Emirates’ increase in service comes just one month after United Airlines announced the cancellation of its own daily service between Washington D.C. and Dubai next January 25. United launched the non-stop service to Dubai with a Boeing 777-200ER into the teeth of a recession back in 2008, and initially found great success thanks to U.S. government contracts for shuttling troops to and from the Middle East. However, after President Obama followed through with plans to withdraw from Afghanistan, United’s numbers on the route steadily declined.

By 2014, government contract demand to the Middle East dwindled, forcing United to compete for unaligned passengers with all of the Middle East Big 3. Emirates and Etihad joined Qatar Airways in D.C. by launching services in 2013, and United found itself increasingly at a disadvantage competing for origin and destination passengers heading to the Middle East that weren’t bound to United by a corporate contract.

The proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back was the awarding of a U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) contract for travel to the Middle East to JetBlue instead of United for 2016. JetBlue doesn’t even serve the Middle East (or offer much service at Washington Dulles for that matter), but would instead service those passengers via its code share partner Emirates. While the total number of passengers affected by the contract is small (15,000 annually or ~28 per day in each direction), it was apparently a tipping point for United.

Conversely for Emirates, the new flows via JetBlue will be a nice initial boost towards its prospects of filling an extra 150 seats in the new A380. Besides Emirates, all three Middle East carriers, as well as Turkish Airlines (which offers daily service from Istanbul to Dulles) will benefit from United’s departure from this route by gaining incremental demand for their own flights.

Passengers will also get a service boost, as Emirates’ A380s feature a 1-2-1 configuration in business class, instead of the cramped, below-industry standard 2-3-2 product offered on the Boeing 777-300ER.

Emirates up to nine daily A380 flights to United States

With the new route, Emirates will now offer nine daily A380 flights to the United States at its peak across seven different routes (six destinations). New York JFK (one of the oldest A380 destinations in Emirates’ network) continues to see three daily non-stop A380 flights to Dubai as well as an additional daily A380 flight on the fifth freedom route via Milan Malpensa to Dubai. Houston and San Francisco each see daily A380 service, as does Los Angeles at present, which will also get an additional second daily A380 flight, beginning July 1st.