Emirates hits back at Delta in spat over Milan route

US rival is backing legal battle to prevent Dubai carrier operating flights to US from Milan

Dubai's Emirates Airline has hit out at US rival Delta Airlines over its objection to the Gulf carrier operating flights from Milan to New York.

An Italian court in April ruled the Dubai carrier cannot operate flights directly between Milan Malpensa airport and New York, upholding a legal challenge brought against the Gulf airline by the Italian carrier association Assaereo.

Assaereo, whose biggest member is domestic flagship airline Alitalia, had complained that Italy's civil aviation authority had granted Emirates the right to extend flights between Italy and the US.

Assaereo claimed the Gulf carrier has no right to operate what is known as a fifth freedom service, the industry name for a service between two countries operated by a carrier that is not based in either the origin or destination country.

While the Council of State, which is a higher body, temporarily suspended that decision and Emirates has resumed service of the route, US carrier Delta, which also operates a Milan to New York service, claimed Emirates had no place operating the service.

"The TAR Lazio decision makes it clear that UAE-based Emirates is not authorised to operate this non-stop service," Delta said in a statement. "The Emirates route provides no additional benefit for travellers who are already well-served by US and Italian carriers between Milan and New York and could significantly harm US and Italian airline employees by adding unnecessary capacity to an already competitive market."

However, Emirates hit out at Delta’s stance in a piece in the airline’s official Open Sky magazine.

“In truth, Emirates’ service is receiving strong demand from passengers in all classes, with the route receiving between 6,000 to 8,000 new bookings every month, and average seat factors for this summer are projected to reach 90 percent,” the article said.

“5th Freedom services have existed for decades and provides consumers, airports, and communities with an important competitive alternative. Where 5th Freedom services are authorised – as they are, without restriction, as part of every US Open Skies agreement – airlines are and should be free to decide whether they make commercial sense and address un-met consumer demand.”

Addressing the US rival directly, it said: “Delta, despite its seemingly principled position against 5th Freedom flights, has more than a few 5th Freedom flights of its own, which it conveniently forgets to mention in its frequent and ongoing commentary about Emirates.

“Singapore Airlines already operates fifth-freedom US routes between Houston and Moscow; New York and Frankfurt; Los Angeles and Tokyo; San Francisco and Seoul; and San Francisco and Hong Kong, and nobody seems to mind.”

In a statement, an Emirates spokesperson added: “Our passengers can be assured that we will continue to operate as normal on the Milan/JFK route until the final judgment of the appeal court, anticipated to be issued no earlier than the end of this year.”

The legal battle comes as fellow UAE carrier Etihad is engaged in advanced negotiations to buy a 49 percent stake in Alitalia.

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Please post responsibly. Commenter Rules

Posted by: Sarah

Why doesn't Delta just upgrade their carrier instead of running to court because their customer base now have an option (Emirates Airlines) that provides better customer service? They're behaviour is appalling, so wonder why I boycott US carriers! This route will not only be a boost for customers in Milan, but for those that don't want to do a long-haul to NYC and after flying on an A380 with Emirates Airlines, I really can't see flying with anyone else. I understand that Emirates will not be utilizing an A380 from their website, which is a mistake because they could easily fill that plane, but it appears they are flying a Boeing plane - a shame. My question is: Is Emirates still flying out of Milan to NYC or have their flights been halted by this ridiculous law suit.

Posted by: David

Dubai operates an open skies policy and does not restrict any carrier. Emirates supports complete open skies so the above statement is untrue.

Posted by: David

I hear this arguement about Dubai having a small home market quite alot as a reason Emirates should be restricted. I don't hear the same arguements about KLM where Holland has a small home market. In addition, Delta has numerous 5th freedom arangements but they seem to forget that.

Posted by: JPG

People, really. Dubai has NO market what so ever... So what do they have to lose?? Do you think anybody could come into Dubai with an A380 and catch a truckfull of Dubai citizens. All employees of national corporations are forbidden from flying anything but EK. So please - Open Skies? And then what is Open Skies / free competition good for if it is not fair competition? Who would win the Football World Cup if there was no steroid testing and no rules? Air transport is not in the WTO... In case of the autocratic gulf states I'd say Open Skies = Bad Skies.

Posted by: Jack Andeson

It should be a fare competition you fly the rout if you will make money out of why not ... and it comes down to what kind of service you provide to attract the customer its not about you have business here or no you do not have business here its all about computation and not about anything else stop crying delta and get on in the competition and provide the services that will attract the passengers in your airplane NO MONOPOLY ANY MORE

Posted by: Peter Peter

I am sorry but Emirates is way out of line on this . Emirates is getting way too many flights to India where they pck up passengers for destinations beyond Dubai , but will not allow Indian carriers to lift passengers from Dubai for onward destinations.

Come on , be fair. Open up Dubai for through traffic from other Asian carriers like Air India, Jet Airways, Indigo, and then ask for 5th freedom services for your self !

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