United Airlines expects load factors above 80% on new Dubai route over summer

Passenger flights to be 'very full', with business and leisure passengers travelling to Dubai and beyond, United executives say

United Airlines' Polaris business-class cabin. Photo: United Airlines
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United Airlines expects its newly-launched direct flights to Dubai to have load factors — a measure of how well an airline is filling available seats — of above 80 per cent during the busy summer travel season.

Direct flights from Newark to Dubai are expected to be “very full”, with load factors set to reach the “upper 80s”, said Patrick Quayle, United Airlines' senior vice president of global network planning and alliances, at a media round-table in Dubai on Monday.

United's first non-stop flight to the emirate since 2016, which landed on Sunday evening at Dubai International Airport, was “100 per cent full”, he said.

Demand was strong for the flight, with some passengers ending their journey in Dubai, while others connected onwards to Seychelles, Kenya or India on Emirates flights.

United Airlines launched its first non-stop service between New York-Newark and Dubai since 2016. Photo: Handout

“The flight does look really well, what we're seeing is both business and leisure [travellers] and we're seeing both local traffic that is terminating here in the UAE as well as a lot of traffic that is flowing to the Indian subcontinent,” Mr Quayle said.

“So that is proof of the partnership with Emirates working, those passengers have the ability to flow on. On the US side … what we're seeing with our Newark flight is that we're getting the New York market but on top of that we're also getting traffic from the smaller cities in North America.”

The new service comes after Emirates and United signed a codeshare agreement last year.

In September, the two airlines hosted an event in Washington to announce the historic pact, stating that it would “terrify our competitors” with non-stop flights between Newark and Dubai included in the deal.

So far in 2023, US visitation to Dubai is already 5 per cent above pre-Covid levels in 2019, Hoor Al Khaja, associate vice president of international operations at Dubai Economy and Tourism, said on Monday.

“There's a lot of interest and a lot of demand. The US consistently comes up in the top three in terms of searches for travel to Dubai,” she said.

“It's also a two-way opportunity: Dubai is four hours away from one-third of the world's population and eight hours away from two-thirds of the world's population.

“Our teams are already in touch to meet and put together plans for bigger things to come.”

United Airlines launches its first non-stop flight from US to Dubai

United Airlines launches its first non-stop flight from US to Dubai

The two airlines' “milestone” agreement will also allow “significant” volumes of goods to move between the two major global hubs, the US embassy said.

In terms of air cargo, the Emirates partnership will allow United to reach new markets in South-east Asia via Dubai, Andrew Nocella, the US carrier's executive vice president and chief commercial officer, said.

While cargo yields have declined from their peak levels during the pandemic as more aircraft capacity has returned to the market, air freight volumes remain “very strong”, Mr Quayle added.

Looking ahead, Mr Nocella said the airlines had spent more than a year discussing opportunities for co-operation that would involve several steps.

“We have broad hopes for this partnership.”

Updated: March 28, 2023, 9:29 AM