DALLAS — Emirates (EK) marked a significant milestone last Sunday, celebrating the 10th anniversary of its fifth-freedom route linking Milan to New York’s JFK Airport. Inaugurated in 2013, this route flies daily from Dubai (DXB) to Milan Malpensa (MXP) before continuing on to New York JFK, all under the so-called fifth-freedom regime.
Operations under flight numbers EK205 and EK206 initially utilized the Boeing 777-300 (ER), transitioning to the A380 in 2015. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic services were suspended, resuming in June 2021.
JFK-MXP in Numbers
In a press release issued on Monday, EK revealed that over 1.8 million passengers have been transported on over 6,000 flights between Milan and New York since 2013, including 884,440 American passengers on flights from New York.
Additionally, 2.4 million pounds of fresh cheese, cosmetics, fresh vegetables, gold jewelry, etc. were exported annually from Italy to the U.S. by Emirates SkyCargo.
This direct link between Milan and New York not only streamlines travel for the Italian diaspora, students, business travelers, and tourists between Italy and the US but also serves as a vital conduit for US travelers connecting to Milan and accessing EK’s’ extensive global network of over 140 destinations.
The Intricacies of Fifth Freedom Flights
The route in question is a great example of how airlines can use the fifth freedom regime, which enables them to exercise traffic rights granted by bilateral or multilateral agreements between countries, to expand their network. These rights allow carriers to transport passengers and cargo between two foreign countries through an intermediate stop in their own country.
Although the practice has showcased the benefits of increased connectivity and expanded travel options, it has not been without its controversies. “Home” airlines sometimes harbor resentment towards the new competition brought about by fifth freedom flights. This has led to debates and disputes, especially in the past, when these flights are operated by Gulf carriers, with accusations of receiving government subsidies being a central point of contention.
Historical Perspective: The Alitalia Challenge
When Emirates entered the Milan-New York market in 2013, it faced significant resistance, particularly from Italy’s former flag carrier, Alitalia, now ITA Airways (AZ). The presence of a well-established partnership between Alitalia and Delta Air Lines (DL) made EK a disruptive force. However, its success in the market highlighted the growing demand for better connectivity and competitive pricing.
Back in 2013, the Milan-New York route was served by Alitalia (AZ), operating the Airbus A330-200, and American Airlines (AA), Continental (CO) and DL, all operating various versions of the Boeing 767. However, EK’s introduction of the modern Boeing 777-300 (ER) brought about a significant change in the landscape.
Today, passengers flying from Milan to New York have more choices than ever before, with a wider range of airlines and aircraft to choose from, leading to increased choices and more competitive fares. For example, as of today, Delta now operates the route using the much younger A330-300, while United Airlines (UA) and AA utilize the Boeing 777.
Furthermore, new players have entered the market, intensifying the level of competition.
Current Landscape: Seven Competing Carriers
The Milan-New York route, including Newark (EWR) airport, sees competition from seven carriers: DL, AA, UA, EK, AZ, Neos (NO), and La Compagnie (B0), a specialized provider of business-class services.
This milestone not only celebrates a decade of successful service but also highlights the dynamic evolution of the Milan-New York route and the transformative impact of EK’s’ presence in the market.
As the aviation industry continues to change and grow, the competition on this route is likely to remain a topic of interest for industry watchers and travelers alike.
Featured image: Airways was invited to assist Emirates and SEA to cover the 10-year anniversary of the Milan-New York service. Photo: Lorenzo Giacobbo/Airways