Emirates’ fledgling partnership with low-cost carrier easyJet will strengthen the Dubai-based company’s European network, industry experts predict, enabling it to indirectly serve destinations that would otherwise be beyond logistical reach.
Emirates has long eschewed the formal alliances favored by the likes of British Airways, instead agreeing codeshare partnerships with 21 airlines, including several budget carriers such as US-based JetBlue Airways and Australia’s Jetstar Airways.
Last year, it began a complex partnership with FlyDubai, which is also wholly owned by Dubai’s government, in which the duo will codeshare, integrate their networks and deliver “fleet synergies.”
The easyJet tie-up, although initially restricted to flights in and out of London Gatwick, could bring significant benefits; easyJet customers can now make a single booking for its flights to Britain’s No. 2 airport that includes a connecting Emirates flight to Dubai. The same is available in reverse.
The agreement will be expanded to other destinations, the companies said in a joint statement — easyJet’s fleet of 308 aircraft flies to 159 airports in 34 countries. Emirates, meanwhile, flies to 150 destinations worldwide and has about 130 non-stop flights from Britain to Dubai per week, including three daily from Gatwick.
“Emirates gets to leverage the strength of easyJet’s broad European network — particularly to those cities that Emirates itself either doesn’t serve or has no plans to serve due to various restrictions on access, airplane size or slot availability,” said Saj Ahmad, chief analyst at StrategicAero Research.
“It’s really a win-win situation from a connectivity standpoint, as well as offering the chance to accrue Skywards miles that could also be used on FlyDubai flights too.”
EasyJet has similar agreements with the likes of Virgin Atlantic, Norwegian, WestJet and Singapore Airlines, which typically include a minimum 2.5-hour connection time between flights to ensure passengers make their connecting flights. These tie-ups are in response to the growing trend of “self-connecting,” whereby passengers make bookings with multiple airlines to reach particular destinations at the lowest price, even though this requires collecting baggage and checking in again.
“It’s an extra opportunity because easyJet knows some people will self-connect anyway, so by facilitating that through agreements with other airlines it can generate extra revenue,” said John Strickland, a director at London’s JLS Consulting.
“Although this is relatively incremental in the case of easyJet because it’s flying about 95 percent full on most routes, so can’t squeeze on that many more people.”
EasyJet’s partnerships span 11 European airports, including Amsterdam, Barcelona, Paris, Milan and Berlin, and the disparity between an Emirates flight and flying budget should do little to deter travelers.
“It’s really not any different to traveling economy on any other conventional airline and making a connection,” said Strickland.
“The service experience is no different. If you fly BA short-haul, there are buy-on-board products for food and drink. Seat space in economy is about the same. It would be different for Emirates business-class travelers, but the vast majority of passengers doing self-connections will be flying economy.”
He believes easyJet would want to link with Emirates at all airports where the pair overlap, such as Paris Charles de Gaulle, Milan Malpensa, Geneva, Lyon, and Nice. “There are quite a lot of places around Europe where they could do it, providing the necessary facilities were in place,” said Strickland.
StrategicAero’s Ahmad was more cautious, predicting that Emirates — which in May reported an annual profit of 2.80 billion dirhams ($763 million), up 124 percent year-on-year — would wait to assess the impact on its Gatwick-Dubai service before expanding the easyJet partnership.
Emirates is ranked the fourth most valuable airline brand worldwide, according to Brand Finance, behind US trio American Airlines, Delta Airlines and United Airlines, which are also the only airlines to rank higher in terms of passenger miles flown. The Dubai carrier’s various codeshare agreements support its brand, analysts said.
“Emirates’ brand is immense globally. Arguably, it’s the most recognized airline anywhere in the world,” said Ahmad.
“Given that Emirates is not choked by the reins of an alliance, it is free to supplement its organic expansion with industry peers that also want to enjoy that growth.
“This flexibility bolsters Emirates’ branding and partnerships with other carriers — and passengers will ultimately like what they see when Emirates provides them with a platform that covers the entire planet.”
In September, Emirates and Abu Dhabi-owned Etihad both denied a Bloomberg story that the Dubai company would buy the main airline business of its loss-making rival.