Officials at a Detroit airport are urging international airlines to launch nonstop flights between the US city and Dubai to cater for its substantial Arab-American population.
Staff have set up an online petition in the hopes of encouraging either Emirates or Delta Airlines to add the route to their existing networks, according to local media.
They say the services are needed due to the high volume of Arab-Americans living in the city, and given the large proportion of business travellers in the state of Michigan eyeing a gateway to India.
They are hoping pleas from passengers will grab the airlines’ attention.
“We’ve actually had meetings with the airlines already to talk to them about the possibility of a service, but obviously I’d rather have a large number of people sign the petition,” said Joe Cambron, director of air service development, in an interview with the Detroit Free Press.
“Airlines like to see people responding to online petitions.”
Officials added it was also important to launch a nonstop service between Dubai and Detroit before a route was added by another major US metropolis, Chicago.
Ideally there would also be connections between Detroit and Lebanon, officials were reported as saying, given that many US residents have families in the country. Currently security constraints do not permit this.
Detroit is known for having one of the largest concentrations of Arabs outside MENA.
In Dearborn, which is located in the Detroit metropolitan area, one-third of citizens have Middle Eastern ancestry.
According to a 2007 Wayne State University study, the Arab-American community in Detroit and the surrounding area generates around US$7.7bn annually in salaries, while the American Arab Chamber of Commerce says more than 15,000 businesses in and around Detroit are owned by Arabs.
The number of Arab immigrants in Detroit supposedly grew when Henry Ford recruited thousands of Lebanese, Yemenis and others to work in his giant River Rouge complex in the area.