Emirates Has Seen 'Drastic Increase' In Travel That'll Continue to Soar, Exec Says

Emirates' divisional vice president for the U.S. and Canada spoke with T+L on all things international travel.

An Emirates airplane in flight over clouds

Courtesy of The Emirates Group

As international travel returned in full swing this past summer — to say the least — Emirates sees the trend only continuing, specifically for its U.S.-customer base.

“I keep on looking at it in a very optimistic way,” Essa Sulaiman Ahmad, Emirates’ divisional vice president for the U.S. and Canada, told Travel + Leisure. “We know that the traffic that goes between the U.S. and the rest of our network is very important [and] vice versa as well.”

The Dubai-based airline is already at 96% of its pre-pandemic levels in and out of the United States with no signs of stopping, Sulaiman noted explaining the range of options for U.S. travelers.

“We, for example, have our partner, Flydubai [which] we do have codeshare agreements with,” Ahmad said. “And we have seen that the network and the numbers kept on increasing because right now, I can offer, for example, all the U.S.-based passengers… not only the 130 destinations that Emirates flies to, I can add to it another 60 distinct destinations that Flydubai flies to… So it just widens up the scope of destinations that we have.”

“We see that travel is going to be so essential… it’s going to keep on increasing at a drastic level," he noted.

Emirates staff behind the bar in the on board lounge

Courtesy of The Emirates Group

The positive outlook comes as Emirates and United Airlines announced a codeshare agreement that will go into effect in November. Emirates customers flying into Chicago, San Francisco, or Houston will be able to connect onto United flights on a single ticket, and the airlines will have an interline arrangement in place for other gateway cities. United will also launch a new direct flight between Newark Liberty International Airport and Dubai starting in March 2023.

When asked about codeshare agreements in general, ahead of official announcement, Ahmad said this kind of partnership “widens up the scope of destinations that we have.”

Business Class cabin on Emirates Boeing 777

Duncan Chard/Courtesy of The Emirates Group

Currently, Emirates flies 96 flights each week to and from the U.S. When it comes to its network as a whole, the airline is at about 78% of its pre-pandemic capacity. And passengers aren’t only flying, but treating themselves to a bit of luxury in the process.

“You would find people who kept on moving from one cabin to the other,” he said. “[Passengers] who predominantly used to fly economy class, they would shift to business class. People from business were shifting to first.”

On Dec. 1, the airline will expand its onboard offerings by introducing its new premium economy seat in the U.S. starting with flights to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. Emirates will then add the premium economy seats on flights to San Francisco on Feb. 15, 2023.

Back view of economy class on board an Emirates airplane

Courtesy of The Emirates Group

Ahmad said travelers have also shifted where they travel with an uptick in countries like Zambia and Ethiopia, a change from destinations that were more popular pre-pandemic like South Africa and Kenya.

“People have become a bit more adventurous in their choices,” Ahmad said.

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