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Emirates and Canada

The Emirates and Canada story began on October 29, 2007, with the launch of three weekly nonstop flights from Dubai to Toronto and vice versa. This is the maximum number of weekly flights we can operate under the current Air Transport Agreement between Canada and the UAE. Every year, these flights operate at near capacity, consistently averaging over 90% seat occupancy. It is an indication there is plenty of demand to be filled and a daily service between Toronto and Dubai could benefit travelers, businesses, and the tourism industry.

In the longer term, we would also like to expand our services to more Canadian cities, such as Calgary and Vancouver, in the same way that we have grown in other markets, such as Australia, Germany, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

Read more about Emirates’ operations in our factsheet Emirates and Canada(opens a PDF in a new tab).

Background on Canada and Dubai

Dubai—a strong and growing export market

In 2017, the UAE was the largest merchandise export market for Canada in the Middle East and North Africa region.

  • Canadian exports to the UAE reached CAD 1.6 billion in 2017, an increase of 41% over 2007, and its CAD 1.4 billion trade surplus with the UAE was Canada’s fourth largest globally.
  • There are more than 150 Canadian companies doing business in Dubai and 1,114 companies registered by Canadian citizens.
  • Passenger and cargo traffic between Canada and the UAE—and Dubai in particular—is growing rapidly.
  • In 2009, Canada and the UAE signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Trade and Investment, recognition of the tremendous potential for growth in commerce between Canada and the UAE. The two countries recently concluded a nuclear cooperation agreement (NCA), which will include Canada supplying uranium and technology to the UAE.
  • With an aim to reenergize the business relationship and further promote trade and the strategic partnership between the two countries, the UAE and Canada launched a joint business council in Montreal, Canada, in October 2013.
  • Even Star Alliance member Air Canada has acknowledged that the Dubai-Canada market is underserved, offering flights from Toronto to Dubai beginning in November 2015.

We believe that increased access for Emirates to Canada would have a positive impact on Canada’s trade relationship with the UAE, facilitating the carriage of goods and people between the two countries. While the Canadian government promotes "open skies" agreements, many of its own such agreements have been with countries that are less valuable export markets for Canada.

Canada’s trading relationship with these countries is markedly different compared with the UAE and Dubai:

CountryCanadian exports in 2017 (CAD millions)Export rankingTotal trade in 2017 (CAD millions)Total trade ranking
South Korea5,203613,9077
Switzerland1,998156,39815
Brazil1,711186,42314
United Arab Emirates1,603211,79237
Ireland588392,90127
New Zealand494411,20249
Trinidad and Tobago3055348167
Dominican Republic166641,39144
Costa Rica1596567559
Jamaica1237329175
Iceland798217783
El Salvador599016590
Honduras4310242768
Nicaragua4110416889
Barbados3710750115
Guyana2911369058
Belize1613318149
Curaçao1513516152
Antigua and Barbuda1015310166
Saint Lucia91569167
Sint Maarten61646178

Source: Statistics Canada & US Census Bureau

As the table demonstrates, the UAE is a significantly larger export market for Canada than most of the other listed countries where these Open Skies agreements exist, with the exception of South Korea, Switzerland, and Brazil. This further highlights the potential of additional Emirates flights to Canada to to boost trade significantly.

A new tourism source market for Canada

Canada’s tourism industry is suffering, with inbound traffic from traditional markets showing substantial decreases. According to Destination Canada, the country welcomed an estimated 19.97 million international overnight visitors in 2016, still short of the record 20.06 million arrivals in 2002. Provincial governments and tourism operators are desperately seeking to open new source markets, including the UAE.

UAE tourists are some of the most sought after in the world, spending on average CAD 10,000 per person, per week on vacation. The average vacation stay for an Emirati in the United States is one month, though many stay for up to eight weeks.

This same potential exists for Canada, and Emirates has the ability to connect the country with these tourists. However, the opportunity is being lost because of existing flight restrictions. As outlined in the table below, other countries have opened their doors to increased Emirates services and seen the economic and tourism benefits that follow.

CountryEmirates Weekly Flights (Summer 2018)Flight restrictions*
United Kingdom126Unrestricted
United States98Unrestricted
Australia91105
Germany70Unrestricted
South Africa5656
New Zealand14Unrestricted
Canada33

*The maximum number of Emirates weekly flights allowed under existing air services agreements between the UAE and the country in question.

Canada's opportunity

The strong commercial, tourism, and economic benefits to Canada can only be fully realized by increasing the flight frequency entitlements under the current Air Transport Agreement between Canada and the UAE. Dubai has become a global economic player, providing a wide range of opportunities for Canadian businesses. Strengthening the relationship between Emirates and Canada with increased flights to and from Dubai would further promote trade, investment, tourism, and employment, generating substantial economic and social benefits for Canada and its citizens.

Would Air Canada be impacted?

There are some concerns about the increased competition with Air Canada if a daily Emirates service was launched between Dubai and Toronto, concerns which from our perspective are hugely exaggerated. Currently, at Toronto Pearson Airport, our share of weekly international departures is 0.1%, while our share of international seat capacity is 0.4%, as opposed to Air Canada's 54% share of weekly international departures and 51% share of international seat capacity. With a daily service, Emirates’ shares of weekly international departures and international seat capacity will increase marginally, to just 0.3% and 1%, respectively. These small increases are not at a level that would pose a threat to Air Canada.

  • In November 2015, Air Canada commenced a direct service from Toronto to Dubai, operating three times a week; in addition, Air Canada operates four weekly direct services from Toronto to Delhi (which will become daily beginning October 30, 2016). There is no direct competitive overlap between Emirates and Air Canada in the Middle East, Africa, or the South Asian Subcontinent since Air Canada does not operate services to any point in these regions apart from Dubai, Delhi, and Mumbai.
  • Contrary to claims that we are reliant on third-country traffic, our connecting traffic only complements the substantial and fast-growing Canada–UAE origin and destination traffic on our Dubai–Toronto flights. In carrying this connecting traffic, we also provide enhanced access between Canada and various regions of the world that are underserved or not served at all from Canada. Connecting passengers today represent a key part of the overall traffic mix for all network carriers—including Air Canada and its Star Alliance partners.
  • To suggest that the commercial interests of Air Canada’s partners within Star Alliance (with its 28 member airlines, more than 725.51 million passengers each year, a fleet of more than 4,700 aircraft, and a 62% share of weekly international departures and 59% share of international seat capacity at Toronto Pearson Airport) would be seriously impacted by a daily Emirates service between Dubai and Toronto lacks credibility.
  • In 2017, Air Canada's profit more than doubled to CAD 2.04 billion, compared with CAD 876 million in 2016. The company added 30 routes globally in 2017 and carried a record 48 million passengers.
  • We always look to generate new demand rather than redistribute existing traffic. It is not our policy to engage in "capacity dumping" or predatory pricing—we price our product competitively in all markets.