Emirates Exposed: Inside The Giant’s Market Dominance



Emirates is the world’s fourth-largest international airline. It uses the B777-300ER, A380, and B777-200LR to 130 destinations from Dubai this year. Asia-Pacific is the top region, India the largest country, and Heathrow the number-one route.

Emirates has 130 passenger destinations from Dubai across 72 countries. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

If seats and flights are considered, Emirates is the world’s fourth-largest international airline by both measures. For international seats, it is behind Ryanair, Turkish Airlines, and Lufthansa, data from OAG reveals. For international flights, only Delta, Qatar Airways, and SAS have more, assisted by their strong use of narrowbodies.

Indeed, Emirates’ sole use of widebodies means that it now has 377 seats per flight, down from 406 in 2019 because of less intensive use of the A380. Still, Emirates climbed nine positions for flights, up as it is from 13th.

The A380 is Emirates’ second-most-used aircraft. Photo: Getty Images

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Asia-Pacific is the #1 region

Asia as a whole is Emirates’ largest region, with 14 million seats this year, well ahead of the almost 10 million Europe. This is due to big cuts in flights to Europe, which is normally the largest market for the airline.

Emirates’ scheduled capacity for 2021 is as follows:


  1. Asia-Pacific 14 million seats; 37.4% of the total
  2. Europe 9.9 million; 26.5%
  3. Africa: 5.7 million; 15.3%
  4. Middle East: 4.9 million; 13.1%
  5. North America: 2.6 million; 7.0%
  6. Latin America: 287,000; 0.8%

North America, Emirates’ fifth-largest region, has seen capacity drop by 44% since 2019. Then, it had 13 destinations, and now it has 12 following the loss of Ft. Lauderdale in 2020. New York JFK remains Emirates’ largest destination, with twice as much capacity as second-place Los Angeles. Simple Flying showed that Dubai is JFK’s eighth-largest long-haul route this year.

The B777-300ER is utterly crucial to Emirates, with three-quarters of its total seats. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Western Europe and South Asia

Although Western Europe is understandably Emirates’ leading sub-region – enormously so in normal times – South Asia is a key element too. This region drives Emirates’ strong Asia focus, helped not just by connecting passengers over Dubai but also by strong point-to-point demand. A short-term problem is the UAE suspending India flights because of rising COVID cases.


Emirates’ scheduled capacity this year in this region is:

  1. Western Europe: 8.9 million seats (down by 13 million since 2019)
  2. South Asia: 8.4 million (down by 3.2 million)
  3. Middle East: 4.9 million
  4. Southeast Asia: 2.7 million
  5. North America: 2.6 million

Emirates serves five countries in South Asia – Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka – although that rises to five if Afghanistan is included. It serves Nepal through sister flydubai, with twice-daily flights well-timed to connect to/from Emirates’ own services. However, unlike 25 other destinations, Kathamandu is not served by flydubai from Emirates’ Terminal Three.

The B777-200LR is one of three aircraft in Emirates’ passenger fleet, joining the B777-300ER and A380. Photo: Cory W. Watts via Wikimedia.

India is the leading country

The full-service airline serves 72 countries from Dubai this year, down from 78 in 2019. Argentina, Cambodia, Chile, Croatia, Malta, and Myanmar are no longer served. Five of the six were tag-ons, increasing costs and showing they were relatively thin in themselves.

Zagreb and Malta were both taken over by flydubai, showing the importance of right-sizing and reallocating routes to a more appropriate platform.

India is Emirates’ top country market this year, with nearly two million more seats than the UK. It has been helped by the ban between the UK and the UAE, which saw the UK stripped of its #1 spot. Australia, Italy, and Thailand have all left for the top-10 list for now, but they’ll return.

  1. India: 4.2 million
  2. UK: 2.5 million
  3. USA: 2.4 million
  4. Pakistan: 1.9 million
  5. Saudi Arabia: 1.6 million
  6. Germany: 1.2 million
  7. Egypt: 1 million
  8. Maldives: 932,000
  9. France: 911,000
  10. South Africa: 852,000
Emirates’ route map this year. Image: OAG.

Heathrow is the #1 route

Emirates has 130 destinations from Dubai, down by 13 over 2019. Heathrow remains top, but Cairo, Male, Delhi, Dhaka, and Bahrain have all entered the top-10 list.

  • Heathrow: 672,000 seats
  • Cairo: 495,000
  • Male: 466,000
  • Delhi: 429,000
  • Mumbai: 403,000
  • Karachi: 395,000
  • Paris CDG: 370,000
  • JFK: 362,000
  • Dhaka: 357,000
  • Bahrain: 336,000

Cairo, which was Emirates’ 29th-largest destination two years ago, is now second. The A380 is used on two of its three daily services.