Emirates airline has touched down in Florida with the launch of a new daily 16-hour direct flight to Orlando.
The route is the airline’s 10th to the United States and it is hoped the route will spur business opportunities and cultural exchange both in Dubai and Orlando, which is the world’s theme park capital. A trade group from Orlando is due to visit the UAE this week, and Emirates Holidays has already brought out a brochure enabling customers from the UAE and beyond to book fly-drive, cruise, shopping, theme park and multi-centre trips.
It is also a gateway to the Caribbean, Central America and other points in the US via its American partner airline jetBlue. In terms of inbound traffic, Emirates is also hoping to target US travellers transiting through Dubai to Africa, Asia and other parts of the Middle East.
Central Florida is the most visited region in the United States, receiving 63 million visitors in 2014, two-thirds of the 97 million tourists received by the entire state. Some 12 million people live within a two-hour radius of the city, which is home to around 150 international companies and currently ranked second for job creation in the whole of the US after San Jose in Silicon Valley.
Beyond tourism, other notable local industries include meetings and conferences, entertainment (including film production), technology, education, construction and medicine.
Speaking at Orlando International Airport yesterday, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, chairman and chief executive of Emirates, said Orlando was a destination the airline had wanted to serve for “many years”, and that the commencement of flights had taken five years to set up.
The new route comes amid the ongoing open skies row, but Emirates stressed its ongoing commitment to passenger service and contribution to the US economy, including its most recent order for 150 Boeing 777s worth $76 billion, supporting 400,000 US jobs. On July 1, Emirates launched a second daily service from Dubai to Seattle, the home of Boeing.
Representatives of the US travel industry also welcomed the route. Frank Kruppenbacher, chairman of the Greater Orlando Airports Authority, said the new route had immediately generated 1,400 new jobs and $100m annually. “Once you’ve flown Emirates you don’t want to fly another airline,” he added.
The US Travel Association president and chief executive Roger Dow said: “This pro-growth development demonstrates that international airlines can spur American jobs by providing supply where there is previously unmet demand. America sorely needs this kind of infusion of air service and customer service.”
The Orlando mayor, Buddy Dyer, said the new flight “opens a new world of opportunity for Orlando to pursue tourism and business exchanges with the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Business and leisure tourism is critical to Central Florida’s economy and this new direct service will make it easier for travellers to get to and from Orlando, creating new jobs and opportunities for our residents.” Currently, the region’s biggest international partners are China, Canada and Mexico.
The new flight, aboard a Boeing 777-200LR, leaves Dubai daily at 3.50am and lands in Orlando 15 hours and 50 minutes later, at 11.40am East Coast time. The return leg leaves Florida at 2.40pm and lands in Dubai at 12.30pm UAE time the next day, a duration of 14 hours and 10 minutes. Return fares start from Dh5,395 for economy, Dh21,795 for business and Dh41,295 for first class.
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