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US Legacy Carriers Rally Against Emirates' New Fifth-Freedom Route

Jan. 26, 2017
2 min read
US Legacy Carriers Rally Against Emirates' New Fifth-Freedom Route
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A trade organization representing the three American legacy carriers (American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines) is crying out against Emirates' newly announced fifth-freedom route between Dubai and Newark via Athens, claiming the new flight violates Open Skies agreements. In a statement, the Partnership for Open & Fair Skies decried the new route and asked the US government to investigate the announced service.

The flight between the UAE and the United States through Greece is one of several fifth-freedom routes operated by Emirates (others include Milan to JFK), with daily service scheduled to begin in March. The route is currently slated to be operated by a three-class Boeing 777-300ER, offering multiple levels of service for those traveling to Europe, or on to the Middle East. Plus, based on sample travel dates, Emirates' flight looks to be significantly cheaper than service offered by the US carriers.

However, the Partnership for Open & Fair Skies claims the announced route is a direct violation of the Open Skies agreement between the United States and the UAE. Citing research that accuses the "Middle East Three" carriers (Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways) of receiving over $50 billion in government subsidies, the group claims the route will undermine the legacy carriers' opportunity to be competitive in the global marketplace.

Furthermore, the trade group alleges that allowing the expansion would cut jobs in the aviation sector, due to an unbalanced competitive field. The Partnership claims that every international route canceled by the legacy carriers results in a loss of 1,500 American jobs.

Should the American legacy carriers attempt to block the new route from flying, aviation analysts believe they would have a difficult time creating a case against Emirates. In an interview with Reuters, analysts at the CAPA Centre for Aviation noted that the legacy carriers only fly to Greece seasonally, while the Emirates flight would be daily and year-round. Emirates has not released a statement challenging the legacy carriers' position, and for now at least we can expect the new route to move forward as planned.