Emirates Airline will begin non-stop direct flights between Dubai and Madrid on August 1 to create the first air services between the UAE and the popular southern European nation. With the new daily flight the Dubai airline will fill a notable void in its European network and underlines growing trade and traffic between the two countries. It will become the fourth new route for Emirates this year, after Tokyo, Amsterdam and Prague.
"Traffic to and from Spain has been small in the past," said Premjit Bangara (ck), the travel manager at Sharaf Travel in Dubai. "But now the market is definitely growing slowly but steadily." Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the chairman and chief executive of Emirates, said: "If there is one route that we have been repeatedly asked about in recent years, it is Spain, so I believe we will make a lot of people very happy with this announcement."
While Spain ranks as the world's second largest tourist destination with 60 million tourists in 2007, until now only Qatar Airways has operated a direct flight from the Gulf starting in 2006. One reason, according to Mr Bangara, is that there are not high numbers of Spanish-born expatriates living abroad and travelling back home that would have justified Emirates or Etihad from connecting it to their international networks. Instead the two carriers have focused on using their UAE hubs to serve Indians travelling to Europe and the U.S., Greeks expatriates living in Australia or Australians working in the UK, for example.
Spain is a top fashion supplier to the UAE with brands such as Zara, Massimo Dutti, Pepe Jeans gracing many malls in the country, and Emirates already operates all-cargo flights to the city of Zaragoza. Bilateral trade between the UAE and Spain was worth more than Dh3.6 billion (US$1bn) in 2008, according to the Economic and Commercial Office of Spain in the UAE, of which Dh428m were Spanish clothing exports.
UAE exports into Spain include textiles, electronics, consumer goods and fish, while Spain exports include finished garments, manufactured goods and spare parts for the car industry. The country was the second exports of haute couture shoes due to brands like Manolo Blahnik, according to the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Emirates will use an Airbus 330-200 on the route, with 12 first-class seats, 42 in business and 183 economy-class seats.