Emirates has scrapped plans for a route linking Dubai to Mexico via Spain after Mexican authorities denied it the necessary slots, blocking its access to the Latin American nation of more than 100 million.
The Dubai-based airline has withdrawn its application to operate daily flights from its Dubai hub to Mexico City via Barcelona after Mexican authorities granted Emirates permission for three weekly flights rather than the requested daily slots, it said in an emailed statement.
"This is not commercially viable for us given the resource investment required for such a long distance operation, not to mention the negative impact on connectivity and convenience for our customers," an Emirates spokeswoman said in a statement.
The derailed plans come months after Aeromexico, Mexico's largest airline, suspended its plans for a Mexico City-Barcelona route because Emirates was granted so-called fifth freedom rights to operate flights between Mexico and Spain.
Emirates has long eyed Mexico City as an attractive new destination to add to its vast network as it shows growing interest in the Latin American market. The airline, which operates the industry's biggest fleet of wide-bodies, already flies to more than 150 destinations with most of the world's major population centres part of its network.
"Emirates has extended full flexibility in proposing an operating schedule that utilises low demand slots at Mexico City International Airport," the statement said. "However, despite previous assurances that slots were not an issue at the flight timings requested, the Mexican authorities have informed us that we will not be able to operate daily services, but only three flights a week."
Emirates called the turn of events "hugely disappointing" but said it remained "positive" about the possibility of serving Mexico when "the conditions enable us".
Direct flights from Dubai to the Mexican capital would be possible with Boeing's 777X plane, which Emirates is due to be the first customer of 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.
An Emirates spokeswoman told The National the 777X, while capable of ultra-long haul flights, deploying it on routes such is "less about how far the aircraft can go and more about what makes commercial sense for us and where the demand is".
The airline operates flights to Brazil, Chile and Argentina and flies other fifth freedom routes including to the US.