No freeze on 'fifth freedom' flights in US-UAE agreement, officials say

UAE airlines currently serve 12 destinations through 131 weekly flights
Emirates A380, branded with AC Milan players, landing at Milan airport, where one of its ‘fifth freedom’ flights operates direct to New York City.
By Bernd Debusmann Jr
Tue 15 May 2018 10:18 AM

The agreement between the US and UAE regarding civil aviation confirms “business as usual” and allows Emirates to continue to operate “Fifth Freedom” routes to the US that do not originate in Dubai, despite claims to the contrary, according to officials.

The agreement was announced following a meeting between US Secretary Mike Pompeo and the UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Several American news outlets have reported that the agreement includes 'freeze' on opening fifth freedom rights, and the organisation Americans for Fair Skies published a statement alleging that the UAE has agreed to “freeze any additional new fifth freedom routes” into the US.

This statement, however, is contradicted by UAE officials.

“Aviation is at the centre of a UAE-US trade and commercial relationship that generates enormous benefits from both countries,” Sheikh Abdullah said in a statement following the meeting.

“Today’s announcement confirms business as usual by validating all the rights and benefits – including ‘fifth freedom’ services – of the 2002 air transport agreement between the two countries.”

In the statement, Sheikh Abdullah added that both UAE and US airlines will “continue to have complete commercial flexibility to add or adjust service to meet traveller needs.”

Similarly, Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansoori, the UAE’s Minister of Economy and chairman of the General Civil Aviation Authority said that “importantly, there is no freeze on or any change to operating rights.”

“The UAE’s international airlines can plan and begin new service, including Fifth Freedom flights, without limits and consistent with the 2002 agreement,” he added.

“Our airlines will continue to grow and expand to connect travellers from and to the Middle East with the US, Europe, Asia, Australia and beyond.”

The agreement was also praised by the US Airlines for Open Skies, a coalition of four US passenger and cargo airlines, which said that the announcement – despite still including Fifth Freedom rights – is a “clear victory for American workers, travellers and exporters.”

“We commend the Trump Administration for its thoughtful approach and unwavering commitment to resolve this matter in a way that fully protects the rights of each party under the agreement,” the statement said. “Today’s announcement will allow all sectors of commercial aviation to grow stronger than ever.”

UAE airlines currently serve 12 destinations in the US with 131 flights a week, with UAE officials noting that the flights generate tens of billions of dollars into both economies and supporting hundreds of thousands of job.

The US had a $15 billion trade surplus with the UAE, which is largely driven by the sale of Boeing aircraft with GE engines to UAE airlines, the UAE Embassy in Washington said in a statement.

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