Dubai carrier Emirates has commenced its controversial daily passenger service to Newark Liberty International Airport near New York via Athens.
The inaugural flight marks Emirates’ second fifth freedom route to the US and has drawn condemnation from some local carriers, which accused the airline of violating the UAE’s air service agreement with the US when it was announced.
The Partnership for Open & Fair Skies, a lobbying group backed by US airlines American, United and Delta, said on March 12 that 25 members of Congress from New Jersey and New York sent letters to US President Donald Trump last week to stop Emirates flying the route.
“We have 1.2 million quality American jobs that are being threatened by foreign government subsidies and we need President Trump’s help to protect these jobs,” said chief spokesperson Jill Zuckman.
The group previously accused Emirates and its Gulf rivals Etihad and Qatar Airways of receiving billions of dollars in state subsidies.
However, the service received a message of support from the general manager of Newark International, Diane Papaianni, who said the route would offer more travel options to customers.
Emirates now flies to 12 US destinations, including four daily flights from Dubai to the nearby John F Kennedy International Airport in New York.
“This new route will connect America’s largest metropolitan area and Dubai through one of Europe’s great capitals,” said Hubert Frach, Ddvisional senior vice president, commercial operations west, Emirates. “We expect this service to generate consistently high demand and enhance business, culture and leisure connections on both sides of the Atlantic.”
The airline previously said the route was launched following an approach by the Greek government and Athens International Airport due to a lack of a non-stop daily service between the US and Greece.
In response, the Partnership for Open & Fair Skies argued US carriers have offered as many as three non-stop flights per day on the Newark-Athens route at times of the year when “demand can support non-stop service”.
“The market to Athens is highly seasonal and in the winter months only about 100 passengers per day on average fly between the two cities each way – far too few to make a nonstop flight viable for a market-based airline,” it said.
Emirates also flies another fifth freedom route to New York via Milan and now holds 28 per cent market share between the two cities, according to the US group.
“The establishment of the new direct flight Dubai-Athens-New York will significantly empower Greece’s appeal among the US travel audience,” said consul general of Greece in New York, Konstantinos Koutras, adding the country had seen a double gigit increase in arrivals from the US over the past two years.
The route will be operated by a Boeing 777-300ER with eight seats in first class, 42 seats in business class and 304 seats in economy class, as well as 19 tonnes of cargo capacity.
EK209 departs Dubai at 10:50am and arrives in Athens at 2:25pm before leaving for Newark at 4:40pm and arriving at 10pm.
The return flight will leave Newark at 11:45pm and arrive in Athens at 3:05pm the next day before leaving for Dubai at 5:10pm and arriving at 11:50pm.
Emirates said it had carried more than 16.1 million passengers on US flights since launching service to New York in 2004.