Emirates' Dubai-Athens-New York flight violates U.S. aviation agreement, say U.S. airlines

Mon Jan 23, 2017 5:24pm EST
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By Alexander Cornwell

DUBAI (Reuters) - Emirates' announcement on Monday that it would start flying to the United States with a stop for passengers in Greece sparked a strong reaction from a lobby group representing U.S. competitors who accused it of competing unfairly through state subsidies.

The world's largest long-haul airline said it would start daily flights to New Jersey's Newark Liberty International Airport via Athens on March 12.

Emirates was "flagrantly violating" the air services agreement that allows it to fly to the United States, said the Partnership for Open & Fair Skies, which represents Delta Air Lines (DAL.N: Quote) and other U.S. airlines.

Accusing Emirates of "throwing down the gauntlet," the group said it would discuss the matter with the new administration of President Donald Trump to "protect American jobs."

The Dubai-Athens-Newark route would be Emirates' second so-called 'fifth freedom' flight to the United States in addition to an existing daily Dubai-Milan-New York service. It also operates three daily direct Dubai-New York flights.

Fifth freedom rights allow an airline to fly between foreign countries as a part of services to and from its home country.

Delta and other U.S. airlines have accused major Gulf carriers -- Emirates, Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways - of receiving over $50 billions in unfair subsidies. The Gulf carriers deny the allegations.

The Obama administration began informal consultations with the United Arab Emirates and Qatar on the issue, but no agreement was reached before President Obama's term ended.   Continued...

An Emirates plane is seen at Lisbon's airport, Portugal June 24, 2016. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante