The UAE will be able to establish Barcelona as a bridgehead for onward flights to Mexico, in a move that will allow Emirates to revive its plans to serve the Central American nation.
Mexico agreed to grant so-called fifth-freedom rights that would permit the UAE's long-haul carriers to extend a Dubai-Barcelona service onwards to Mexico City, UAE's state-run news agency WAM reported.
"Discussions are ongoing with the Mexican authorities on this matter and once the airport authorities in Mexico confirm and approve the daily operation we have the intent to commence service," an Emirates spokesman told The National on Monday.
Such flights can make a huge difference in the growth of the airlines, opening up completely new markets that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to access. Emirates in September said it scrapped plans for a Dubai-Barcelona-Mexico City route after Mexican authorities granted it three flights rather than the daily slots requested to make the route commercially viable.
Emirates has long eyed the Latin American nation with a population of more than 100 million as an attractive new destination to add to its vast network.
"The Mexican side agreed to operate the direct service between the two countries for seven days within the time slots available after the maintenance and technical improvement at the Mexico City International Airport," WAM reported.
Operating flights to Mexico from Europe would allow the airline to tap into new growth opportunities, analysts said.
"Not only would Emirates be able to set up a base in Barcelona, their world-renowned products suite would give them significant leverage and a competitive edge over Iberia while stimulating new demand that then doesn't have to criss-cross to Dubai for flights to central or southern America," Saj Ahmed, chief analyst at StrategicAero Research, said.
Direct flights from Dubai to the Mexican capital would be possible with Boeing's 777X plane, which Emirates is due include in its fleet as the first customer in 2020.
Mexico City, while on the cusp of viability with existing aircraft, is likely to have to wait for the upgraded 777 because of its altitude of almost 2,250 meters, which would impose heavy take-off weight penalties for return flights to Dubai.
Emirates, the biggest UAE airline, has been extending a Dubai-Milan service on to New York, tapping travel between northern Italy and the eastern US with Airbus A380s seating more than 450 people.