MIAMI — Emirates announced plans to make Chicago its ninth destination in the United States on Monday. The carrier will begin daily nonstop flights to its hub in Dubai on August 5.
The flight will depart Dubai at 9:45 AM and land at Chicago O’Hare at 3:25 PM. The return flight will depart O’Hare at 8:35 PM and land in Dubai at 7:10 PM the following day (all times local).
Emirates will utilize a Boeing 777-200LR on the new route, outfitted with eight first class suites, 42 business-class seats, and 216 economy.
“Chicago has long been a destination in the United States which Emirates has wished to serve,” Emirates President Tim Clark says in a statement detailing the new route. “We welcome the chance to establish a non-stop trade bridge between these two great cities and, via our Dubai hub, to more efficiently link Chicago area passengers and shippers with our international network beyond Dubai to over 140 destinations spanning six continents.”
On March 10, Emirates will begin service to Boston which will be its eight destination in the United States. The carrier already operates flights to Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston Bush Intercontinental, Los Angeles, New York JFK, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington Dulles.
Emirates’ rapid growth comes as regional rivals Etihad and Qatar also expand in the United States.
Etihad will begin service to Los Angeles in June and Dallas/Fort Worth in December. Qatar Airways launched new flights to Chicago this past year, and it will its fifth and sixth U.S. destinations this year when it begins flights to Philadelphia (April 2) and to Miami (June 10).
However, Emirates’ major competition on the Chicago route will be beleaguered Indian national carrier Air India, who operates a daily year-round nonstop flight between Chicago O’Hare and its hub at Delhi using 342-seat (4F / 35J / 303Y) Boeing 777-300ER equipment.
Air India puts significant downward pricing pressure on competitors aiming to serve similar traffic flows. Passengers typically prefer a connection in Dubai to and from their final destination in India over one in Delhi due to the logjam at customs and immigration during peak times at Delhi. However, Air India offers a broader connecting network to Indian destinations in Delhi which could help it retain some passenger traffic.
Indeed, India will likely be a major source of demand for Emirates’ new flights. Daily per day each way (PDEW) origin and destination (O&D) demand between Chicago and the Indian subcontinent was 546.3 passengers in 2011, and the market has grown by 15-20% since then.
Dubai itself is also an underrated source of O&D demand at nearly 22 passengers PDEW at high fares, and nonstop flights tend to stimulate O&D markets by at least 100%. When combined with the broader demand to the Middle East, the rest of Asia, and Africa, Emirates is tapping into a potential market of close to 3,000 passenger PDEW. Emirates should have no trouble filling a Boeing 777-200LR or Boeing 777-300ER (which the route will likely be up-gauged to within a year) immediately, and the route could easily support a daily Airbus A380 within three to four years if the airport makes the necessary airfield improvements to support A380 service.