Emirates and Etihad Airways, are increasing the number of flights to Canada’s largest city Toronto from August, marking a departure from the existing bilateral agreement that permits just six outbound flights per week from the UAE to Canada.
Emirates said it will add two additional flights to its three-times-a-week Dubai to Toronto service from August 18, using its A380 superjumbo. Etihad said it will raise flights from Abu Dhabi to five times per week from three, on its Boeing 777-300ER aircraft.
The two airlines said they are responding to rising demand from businesses and tourists. They did not state that the bilateral agreement has been revised, or detail any such revisions.
"This development is great news for UAE nationals, for who Canada is an exciting trade, tourism, and cultural partner, and for Canadians, including the thousands residing here in the Emirates," said Robin Kamark, chief commercial officer of Etihad Aviation Group, in a statement yesterday.
“The UAE is also Canada’s largest export market in the Middle East and North Africa region, so the extra services are a boost for trade to and from the area, and beyond.”
Since June 5, UAE citizens no longer need a visa in advance for short stays to Canada, while Canadian nationals can receive a 30-day visa on arrival when visiting the UAE.
Canada's exports to the UAE accounted for $1.79 billion (Dh6.57bn) in 2016, according to the Canadian embassy in the UAE's website.
Under a 1999 agreement, the UAE is allowed to operate six flights per week to and from Canada, while Air Canada has operated six weekly flights between Toronto and Abu Dhabi since 2015.
Emirates has codeshare partnerships with WestJet and Alaska Airlines in Canada, while Etihad has a codeshare with Air Canada.
However, Emirates and Etihad have expressed their ambition for the past decade to expand Canadian operations. The UAE Government has argued that with an estimated 45,000 Canadians living in the country and a significant trade relationship, six flights a week to one Canadian city is not enough.
Foreign direct investment flows from the UAE into Canada totalled $9.6bn in 2015, according to the Canadian embassy in the UAE.
Canada refused to grant more landing rights to UAE airlines in 2010 despite lengthy negotiations, largely due to objections from its national carrier Air Canada.
However, the UAE's Economy Minister Sultan Al Mansouri and Canadian Minister of Transport Marc Garneau met in May and discussed co-operation in aviation and air services. The talks appear to have significantly bolstered relations in those areas between the two countries.
Emirates' additional Toronto flights will operate on Saturdays departing Dubai at 3.30am and arriving in Toronto at 09.30am. The return flight leaves Toronto at 2.25pm and arrives in Dubai at 11.40am the next day.
On Sundays, the service will depart at 3.30am and arrive in Toronto at 9.30am, while the return flight, will leave Toronto at 2.30pm and arrive in Dubai at 11.25am the next day.
Etihad's new flights will depart Abu Dhabi at 10.05am and land in Toronto at 4.30pm, and the return flight will depart Toronto at 10.55pm and land in Abu Dhabi at 7.40am the following day.