Dubai’s Emirates has begun its first new US route since the UAE signed a deal to resolve claims that the carrier and its Abu Dhabi rival Etihad were receiving government subsidies.
The non-stop service from Dubai International Airport to New York’s Newark Liberty International Airport touched down on Friday, June 1.
It adds to a controversial fifth-freedom route the carrier operates from Dubai to Newark via Athens. A lobbying group for US carriers Delta, American and United said that service violated air service agreements between the UAE and US.
Emirates said the latest addition would add to its route network of 12 US destinations and provide new travel options for 700,000 Indian Americans residing in the greater New York area, a market that US carriers have previously said they were losing to rivals in the Gulf.
“Of the 80-plus destinations on our Middle East, Africa, and Asia Pacific network, 67 are not directly served by any US carrier,” Emirates said in an apparent reference to the competition.
“The breadth of the company’s network between the US and India is unparalleled, offering more flights than any other foreign carrier and significantly reduced travel times compared to airlines connecting via European hubs.”
The start of the new route follows a voluntary agreement signed by the UAE last month intended to ensure Emirates and Etihad are conducting transactions with government-owned entities on commercial terms.
It came in response to claims from Delta, American and United that the big three Gulf carriers, including Qatar Airways, had received $50bn in subsidies over the last decade from their governments. Emirates, Etihad and Qatar denied the allegations.
The Partnership for Open and Fair Skies, the three US carriers’ lobbying group, had claimed the deal meant Emirates and Etihad would be unable to launch additional fifth freedom routes like the Dubai-Athens-Newark service.
However, Emirates later appeared to refute these claims.
“There are no limitations on the fifth freedom routes or direct expansion into the US from the UAE,” an Emirates spokesperson said.
“Contrary to some media reports, there is no freeze on any of the operating rights prescribed in the Air Transport Agreement or any tacit undertakings to do so.”
The direct Newark service is operated by a Boeing 777-3004ER with eight first class, 42 business class and 306 economy class seats.
EK223 leaves Dubai at 3:00am and arrives in Newark at 9:00am before return journey EK224 leaves Newark at 11:50am and arrives in Dubai at 8:20am.