Critics see the route as an incursion that will lead to the loss of domestic aviation jobs.
On Monday, Emirates announced it would soon be launching direct flights between the Greek capital Athens and New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International, one of the four major airports that service New York City.
There’s nothing remarkable about carriers launching new routes, and this particular one had been “long neglected by other airlines” according to Emirates president Sir Tim Clark. But the timing of the Dubai-based carrier’s gambit—its second non-stop route between Europe and North America—has ruffled American feathers, Business Insider reports.
Partnership for Open and Fair Skies, an organization that speaks on behalf of American, Delta, and United Airlines—collectively termed the US3—was quick to lambast what it perceived as an incursion.
“By flagrantly violating its Open Skies agreement with the United States at the start of the Trump administration, Emirates is throwing down the gauntlet,”chief spokesperson for the group Jill Zuckman said in a statement.
Zuckman added: “we look forward to working with President Trump and his team to enforce these agreements and protect American jobs – something that the Obama administration failed to do.”
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The uproar over Emirates’ new U.S. to Europe route—which follows flights between Milan and New York City’s JFK International Airport, launched in 2013—is part of a long-running beef between the US3 and ME3, its Middle Eastern counterpart.
The former alleges that the booming of Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways has come off the back of over $50 billion worth of unfair government subsidies. Their continuing creep into the U.S. market, US3 suggests, will cause domestic aviation job losses and therefore violates the Open Skies bilateral agreement, which sets the rules for air travel between the U.S and other countries.
But Emirates asserts that the ability to carry revenue traffic between two foreign countries as a part of services connecting to an airline’s own country—in this case linking Dubai and New York via Athens—is a bedrock element of Open Skies.
“It enables airlines to initiate service in unserved or underserved markets benefiting consumers, communities and businesses,” a spokesperson for the airline told Fortune. “These rights are actively used by the U.S. legacy carriers in their Pacific traffic, particularly the Tokyo hubs operated by Delta and United.”
This story has been updated.