Serious Question: Would You Rather Fly United or Emirates?

Emirates sees fewer bookings on their US flights as a result of travel restrictions and the electronics ban on US flights from Dubai (and other airports in the region) so unsurprisingly they’re reducing the number of flights they operate to the US by 20% over the coming months.

Emirates had too much capacity flying to the US for the number of passengers willing to fly. Some of that could be that they grew too aggressively, even apart from security restrictions. Although what’s different now are the travel restrictions and electronics ban. Either way Emirates has determined that the current level of flying doesn’t make economic sense for them.

Delta, United, and American have unsuccessfully lobbied for two years to get the government to limit flying by Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar — reducing consumer choice and raising prices. Delta’s CEO actually said his goal was a government rule against lower airfare prices.

The US airline lobbying machine managed to get the Obama administration to open a formal rulemaking, but they didn’t actually win their case and the government took no action. However immigration and security moves over the past few months gave them the win they couldn’t get through earlier politics.

And now that Emirates is cutting US flights, does the airline lobbying outfit quietly revel in its victory over American consumers? Nope.

Here’s Delta News Hub:

“The fact is, market demand has never played a role when the Gulf carriers decide where to fly. It is well known that the Gulf carriers, including Emirates, lose money on most of their flights to the United States and are propped up by billions of dollars in government cash,” said Jill Zuckman, chief spokesperson for the Partnership for Open & Fair Skies.

“Their business model is based on growing their networks without regard to profitability in order to serve their governments’ goals to dominate global aviation. A perfect example is Emirates’ most recent route between Athens, Greece and Newark, N.J., a money-losing flight that is only possible because of government subsidies. That Emirates would refer to itself as “profit oriented” is simply laughable.”

In other words, “we claim they aren’t interested in profit and we’re going to publicly say we’ll ignore facts that contract that — even when we’re winning.”

They’re like small children continuing to complain they don’t like broccoli even after mom and dad scraped their plate into the trash and served dessert.

Except they’re coming out with this whining now just over a week after Delta’s entire operation collapsed on its customers cancelling over 4000 flights, operating most flights that did fly late, and even losing a dead body. And the week after a United passenger was dragged off a plane by police and bloodied. And right as United rolls out Basic Economy fares, offering consumers less at the same price.

I have a serious question for my American readers. Leave aside the myriad subsidies US airlines have gotten over the years.

  • Let’s even pretend that Gulf airlines are subsidized and US airlines aren’t (for instance, that it wasn’t the end to US government payments that caused United to stop flying to Kuwait City, that airline pensions didn’t get dumped on the federal Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation, that American’s original aircraft order financing didn’t come from the Roosevelt administration, that United and Delta didn’t operate Tokyo hubs whose rights came as spoils of World War II, etc).

  • And that US airline employment isn’t at an all-time high

  • And that the Gulf airlines aren’t bigger buyers of Boeing planes than, say, Delta is

  • And that there’s some credible economic theory supporting protectionism for mature, profitable industries (US airlines are the world’s most profitable, too)

Let’s put aside the real arguments here. Pretend that the self-serving claims that Delta, United, and American are making are true and even relevant.

Would you rather fly United right now — or Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I think Emirates has made a huge blunder by giving into trump’s pressure on laptop issue. I just flew on Emirates and you just can’t beat the service on board ( and on ground ) v/s United or American or Delta.

    Emirates had pads on board but with 2500 channels and great service ( In Business) there was No Need for laptop.

    I flew business on United last year EWR/PVG, that was a horrible on board service, so I will not travel on United or American or Delta. These carriers think their shit doesn’t stink ( May be for domestic it applies )

    Emirates Etihad Royal Jordanian etc, “CAN AFFORD TO FEND OF TRUMP’S CHALLENGE” and they all should do it to teach U A D a lesson.

  2. This can’t be a serious question. Of course everyone should pick any ME3 airline. But this is a horrible question because those airlines fly such a small number of routes most of us would choose anyway. Apples to Oranges…if you want an Orange but all you have is an Apple then you still eat the apple…

  3. It all depends on which end of the bus you’re sitting in. If in the front, then the ME3 would be preferable. If you’re in cattle class–United would be better

  4. I am an American. If prices are competitive, I will always choose to spend with an American company employing primarily Americans, paying wages primarily to Americans, with profits going primarily to Americans, and income being taxed primarily in America.

    I am Jewish. I would never fly on an Islamic airline owned by a country that does not recognize Israel’s right to exist, won’t show Israel on a map or even an aviation chart, won’t let me into their country if I have an Israel stamp in my passport, won’t let Israeli athletes compete in their country, and will not allow Jews to practice Judaism in their country.

    Wake up and smell the camel dung.

  5. UA, even with a bad crew.

    No need to fly on “airlines” that are extensions of governments known to support terrorism.

    Gary likes flying these outfits, eating treif onboard to concrete jungles with subsidized Hyatt and SPG properties he can blog about.

    @ Michael Feldman: Kol HaKavod

  6. @josh g
    welcome back attack puddle
    what gary eats is none of your business
    i am jewish too and you can leave your judgment home
    if Dui Parker (pun intended) and the others would provide decent service we would not have this discussion
    of course it doesnt matter to you that delta partners with saudi arabia, and AA with qatar
    you are an hypocrite predictable 3rd rate lobbyist

  7. Emirates ALL the way. Here are few reasons:

    1. The Cabin Crews of Emirates are 10 times better AND proficient than any US Airlines’, let alone UAL, cabin crews. US Airline cabin crews have bad attitude, lack energy, lack intelligence, lack agility, lack poiliteness, lack education, lack customer service, lack strength (mental and physical), lack beauty, lack information etc. etc…

    2. The on-board food is 10 times better in most of the ME3 and Asian carriers than any US Airlines (AA is the worst – got just coffee/pretzel for 9.5 hours of flight from HNL-DFW!).

    3. Cleanness/smell and overall environment is much better in Emirates planes.

    4. Pilot’s capability is better at Emirates than any US Airlines.

    etc. etc.

  8. Hands down I’d take Emirates and Etihad over United — for comfort and service both on the ground and in the air. Qatar is a closer call, but all other things being equal, I’d opt for Qatar too. Another reason I’d do it is in the hope that the American carriers would see evidence that their product isn’t competitive and then take steps to improve it. More competition has always been GOOD for the free enterprise system; monopolies and oligopolies have reliably produced lower quality service and products, so I’d like to encourage competition. Heaven knows the American carriers need SOMETHING to get them to pay attention to anything other than shareholder profit.

  9. Michael Feldman made an excellent point.

    I am not Jewish but have always admired the Jewish people and think the rest of world gives them the short of the stick for no reason except blind prejudice. That said I have not flown a Muslim airline nor China air for they are communist.

    BTW Israel is Not awesome place to visit and I wish I was Jewish so I could go there and live.

    I would however fly Japanese airlines.

  10. I’d love to continue to fly Emirates once the electronics ban is fine. I’ve just never much enjoyed the domestic carriers. I also can’t really take their claims mentioned in the article serious. These days I won’t have to worry about that as I’m not US bound anytime soon.

Comments are closed.