x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Emirates again postpones world’s longest flight from Dubai to Panama

The launch, which had been slated for March 31, will now occur in late 2016 or early 2017.

Fishermen preparing their nets on a boat with Panama City in the background.  Emirates was due to start flying to Panama from March 31. Oscar Gutierrez / istockphoto.com
Fishermen preparing their nets on a boat with Panama City in the background. Emirates was due to start flying to Panama from March 31. Oscar Gutierrez / istockphoto.com

Emirates airline has delayed the launch of its so-called “longest non-stop flight in the world” between Dubai and Panama for a year, citing factors such as fleet utilisation and commercial demand from key markets against the softening global economic outlook.

The 17 hours and 35 minutes direct flight between the two cities was originally slated for launch on February 1 but was delayed until March 31. Now the launch will be by the end of 2016 or early 2017 or “as soon as conditions allow”, it 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,” said an Emirates spokeswoman.

In August, Emirates announced the launch of the world’s longest flight to Panama using a Boeing 777-200LR [long range] aircraft capable of carrying up to 15 tonnes of cargo.

A renaissance of the ultra- long flights would not have been feasible, or econo­mical, if it was not for the sharp plunge in oil prices from $110 per barrel in 2014 to about $35 today.

Additionally, plane makers are working on ultra-­long range models such as the Airbus A350-900 and the Boeing 777-8, which will come into service in the coming four years. But for now, the Boeing 777-200 LR is doing the job.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg yesterday reported that the UAE is seeking to establish Budapest as a bridgehead for onward flights in a move that could allow two of the Gulf region’s biggest airlines to carry people between central Europe and the US.

Peter Szijjarto, the Hungarian foreign minister, said in Dubai that the UAE application had been received, while his office added that the government is “open to such cooperation” and aims to start discussions soon.

The application for so-called fifth-freedom rights concerns services to two points beyond Hungary, Saif Al Suwaidi, director general of the UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority, said in an interview, adding that those locations have yet to be determined, but could include the US.

Such flights can make a huge difference in the growth of airlines, opening up completely new markets that they would not otherwise be able to access. Since 2013, Emirates has been extending a Dubai-Milan service on to New York, with its Airbus A380 that can carry more than 450 people.

selgazzar@thenational.ae

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