The U.S. “Big 3” have long protested the inroads that the “Mid East 3” have made into the U.S. market. For years the major U.S. carriers have maintained that the ME3 are violating OpenSkies. Claims of large government subsidization and unfair business practices have prompted U.S. airlines to seek regulatory relief from Washington as Qatar, Emirates, and Etihad continue to expand into the U.S. market. The ME3 have their own complaints about the U.S. airlines.
Protesting Emirates’ new service
Now United Airlines employees and some members of Congress are set to protest Emirates inaugural flight between Newark and Athens. The route officially launches March 12, and the airline will offer daily non-stop service year-round between the two cities.United and its unions hope to pull in over 150 people to protest the inaugural flight.
One interesting fact about this route is that it is under-served. None of the U.S. Big 3 offer more than seasonal service between Athens and the New York metropolitan area. American doesn’t even fly the route. Emirates will offer a much more reliable schedule for travelers.
Just another battle in the war
There have been plenty of previous incidents. The protest is only the latest chapter in an ongoing war between the major U.S. and Middle Eastern airlines. Last year Qatar launched service between DOha and Atlanta, causing an interesting incident at the Hartsfield-Jackson airport. Over 500 passengers had to be deplaned onto buses. A Delta aircraft happened to be occupying the one Atlanta gate capable of handling an A380.
Personally, I am indifferent to the new service. The ME3 may be unfairly subsidized, and seeking U.S. government action against the airlines may be appropriate. On the other hand, there is no denying the superior service and comfort the airlines offer. Emirates and Qatar were named the top 2 airlines in 2016 by Skytrax. The ME3 have the potential to easily out-compete their U.S. counterparts, who are scrambling to bring their service and cabins up to date.
Featured image courtesy of Espen Solli under CC 2.0 license.