Monday, January 23, 2017

Emirates to launch another fifth-freedom route to US

Dubai-based Emirates Airline plans to start a second fifth-freedom service to the US in March. The new daily route will operate between Dubai and New York Newark via Athens, Greece.

Emirates’ Dubai-Milan Malpensa-New York JFK route, which uses fifth-freedom rights contained in the US-UAE Open Skies agreement, is regarded by many in the industry as what prompted the US majors to start a campaign against Gulf carrier expansion.

That campaign—waged by American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines—which leveled complaints of unfair competition by Middle East carriers Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways, fell mostly quiet in 2016 after the Obama administration did not pursue any action. But the campaign may be resurrected with the new Trump administration and the Athens route could be a new leverage for the US majors and labor groups.

Explaining the Athens route, Emirates president Tim Clark said, “The Greek government and Athens International Airport approached Emirates some time ago to consider serving the route between Athens and New York.”

“After careful review, Emirates concluded that extending one of our Dubai-Athens flights to Newark would be commercially and operationally feasible,” Clark added.

The move marks a reversal of Clark’s previous position that Emirates would not begin any more fifth-freedom routes. In 2014, he also said that fifth-freedom services were financially less appealing that normal services.

The US is home to the largest Greek diaspora, numbering some 1.3 million, according to Emirates: “The Greek-American community has long been anticipating the re-establishment of year-round direct travel between Greece and the United States,” the Hellenic American Leadership Council’s executive director, Endy Zemenides said. “Greece’s economic comeback is going to have to include year-round direct travel between Greece and the US. The new Emirates route makes this possible.”

Emirates will operate a Boeing 777-300ER on the route, in a three-class configuration comprising eight first-class, 42 business- and 304 economy-class seats. The aircraft also has 19 tonnes of bellyhold cargo capacity.

(Alan Dron - ATWOnline News)

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