Emirates wants United’s bread and butter routes…and it likely will prevail unless United chooses to fiercely compete against the popular Gulf Carrier.
American tried and failed. Delta tried and failed. But United maintains service to both New Delhi and Mumbai from its Newark hub. But that service will be critically tested thanks to Emirates new non-stop service from Newark to Dubai starting on June 01, 2018.
Think about it: the United flights leave Newark late, which is nice, but arrive into India too late for domestic connections. Thus, passengers are trapped in Delhi or Mumbai overnight, a major annoyance for those connecting to smaller cities within India.
Enter Emirates, which offers one-stop service to most major cities in India via its Dubai hub, all with nicely timed connections. Throw in a higher standard of service onboard (better meals, service, IFE) and United will struggle to compete.
Emirates will specifically time its new Dubai flight to maximize connections to anywhere in Africa, Asia (or even backtracking to Europe).
EK224 departs Newark at 1150am / arrives Dubai at 0820am+1
EK223 departs Dubai at 0300am / arrives Newark at 0900am
But Emirates specific target is India, which it makes clear in its press release—
Emirates’ non-stop service to Newark will offer travellers in northern New Jersey enhanced global connectivity, particularly those heading to Africa, the Far East, and the Indian sub-continent. This is a boon for ethnic communities such as the nearly 700,000 Indian Americans residing in the greater New York area, who will have one-stop access to nine Indian cities on Emirates’ global network.
Translation: you better watch out United and Air India, because there’s a new sheriff in town.
United Can Fight and Win
But United does not have to cede India to Emirates, like it did Dubai and Kuwait.
First, United is in a difficult position. If it moves its departure from New York earlier to maximize same-day connections in Delhi and Mumbai, it will lose its competitive advantage of allowing someone to work the full day in New York before traveling.
But what if it moved either Mumbai or Delhi a bit earlier? Just a couple hours. That way a person could still work till 3pm in Manhattan, take the United flight to India at 6pm, and still connect same-day to any other city in India.
United may also want to consider a 777-300ER on its Indian routes. Emirates has a bling first class and is known for quality, but its business class is actually 2-3-2. Furthermore, not every aircraft is even equipped with horizontal lie-flat beds in business class! United should make this very clear in an ad campaign, noting that its seats are always truly lie-flat. If a 777-300ER is used, it can proclaim direct aisle access from every seat in a 1-2-1 configuration. That’s quite a contrast!
For business travelers just looking to maximize sleep, United — with better seats and better bedding — can compete with Emirates.
Finally, United has a huge advantage in that Newark is a fortress hub and it can offer easy domestic connections to/from hundreds of cities around the USA. While Emirates partners with JetBlue at JFK, it will be targeting local traffic in Newark.
The new route may seem like bad news for United, but it does not have to be. Instead, if United can rise to the challenge while getting the message out about what it does right (better business class seat, more legroom in EconomyPlus, easy connections) it can still compete against Emirates.