World’s longest flight in search of a reason -Emirates delays Panama…again

In the world of airlines, having the longest flight seems to be the holy grail of marketing.

I do not know why anyone would think it is a good thing to celebrate sitting for over 16 hours scrunched up in a seat with 31 inches of leg room surrounded by people who have not washed for almost a day. For me that would mean four hours of computer work, a novel and a dozen episodes of Big Bang Theory! True, many First Class travellers would relish the chance to extend their cushioned comfort!

Years ago, the flights from Australia to Europe used to land at dusk at local stopover points where passengers enjoyed dinners, real beds and baths before taking off in the morning!

This appeals to me! I might be one of the few that actually enjoy changing planes on a long flight. I always stop in Singapore or Bangkok or Hong Kong on today’s 20+ hour epics between Australia and Europe.  A chance to have a shower, a long walk, eat some local food,  get a change of scenery and aeroplane watch in the terminal seems like a good use of time to me. I have even gone to the cinema, visited a temple and watched a local cultural show. Once I even managed to do some grocery shopping!

Some long non-stops make sense.  Qantas currently owns the title with Sydney-Dallas with 15 hours 55 minutes. Many Australians travel to the USA (and vice versa) for business and vacations so traffic is strong. American Airlines at Dallas and Qantas in Sydney both offer great connections to their respective networks. Starting and finishing your journey in the middle of the USA is a huge plus over awful the LAX gateway with its long connection times, confusing layout and stress!

Some non-stops make logical sense but not economic. Look at Singapore’s service to New York which stopped in  2013, a victim of fuel costs. Singapore is suggesting that route will return when they get their 350s.

Some non-stops make little sense. One example for me is that of  Emirates longest flight from Dubai to to Panama announced last August. Using a Boeing 777-200LR [long range] aircraft capable of carrying up to 15 tonnes of cargo, Emirates, said the 8,590-mile trip would take 17 hours and 35 minute.

The direct flight was meant to launch in February 2016. It was then delayed until March 31. Now the launch will be by the end of 2016 or early 2017 or “as soon as conditions allow”.

That sounds like code to me for “when someone actually books a seat“. I cannot imagine that direct passenger demand between the Panama and the Middle East would be that massively high.  At this stage, it is pretty easy to slip up to Maimi or Dallas from Panama and onto Dubai now. If you want to avoid connecting through the USA, many European carriers can take you to Europe from Central America where you can connect onto Dubai. I found KLM with a total journey time of 18 hours 45 minutes, for example.

Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 1.44.09 PM

Source: COPA

What Emirates are banking on with this non-stop, are being able to tap into COPA’s network for easy connections to their other South American destinations. This would give passengers one stop access to Cuba, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Peru, for example.

The current stumbling block, is that Emirates has only managed to tie up a code sharing arrangement for COPA’s Colombian destinations. Of the other 12 countries COPA fly to, “only three” had agreed to such a code share arrangement. This severely limits the success of the project. As previously described, direct passenger traffic between just Panama and Dubai will not be enough.

As for freight? I know Panama is a major freight hub but who would ship via Panama to the United Arab Emirates.  Certainly not Asia or Australia with their huge array of direct connections to Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The USA and Canada would also be more likely to shop directly.



Emirates said: “We firmly believe in the potential of Central America, and remain keen to link the Emirates network to the region. We will retain staff in Panama City to continue developing our presence,”

I guess they will keep talking to Copa and their 13 destination countries! In the meantime, when the service starts expect plenty of spare seats!

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  1. Shouldn’t be surprising given the UAE is clamping down on the extravagance of its pet airline. I think we’ll see a few more irrational routes disappear from EK’s system. Just as an airport departure tax is going to be levied non-transit passengers at DBX, collapsing oil prices are bringing about an end to never-ending hidden subsidies for EK, EY and over in Qatar, QR (witness the scale back of Al-Jazeera, that emirate’s pet project along with its airline).

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