Delta plans to re-start Dubai flight following agreement

US and UAE officials continue to contradict each other on whether "fifth freedom" routes are a part of the deal between the two countries
The flights, from Atlanta to Dubai, were stopped in 2016 amid allegations of unfair competition with the UAE’s carriers.
By Bernd Debusmann Jr
Wed 16 May 2018 11:38 AM

Delta Air Lines will re-open its Dubai route in the wake of the diplomatic agreement between the US and the UAE regarding aviation, according to Delta CEO Ed Bastian.

The flights, from Atlanta to Dubai, were stopped in 2016 amid allegations of unfair competition with the UAE’s carriers.

“We’re going to have the opportunity to once again go back into parts of the world that we’ve been run out of,” Bastian told the Atlanta-Journal Constitution. [Dubai] was one of the markets we’ve been run out of.”

Bastian added that the airline has “been hurt” in India, although he didn’t say to which cities in the country the airline hopes to now expand following the agreement.

United Airlines, which scrapped its direct flight between Washington DC and Dubai in January 2016, could not immediately be reached for comment on the agreement.

In his remarks, Bastian said that the UAE carriers had agreed to not add additional “fifth freedom” routes to the US that do not originate in Dubai.

Freeze on fifth freedom flights

On Monday, Peter Navarro, the director of the White House Trade Council also told US aviation stakeholders that the agreement included a freeze on fifth freedom routes, saying that it is a “promise that will be kept” on the part of the UAE.

Additionally, Navarro said he found comments to the contrary from UAE ambassador to the US Yousef Al Otaiba “disconcerting” and said they seemed “to undermine the intent” of the letter.

The comments from Bastian and Navarro, however, stand in contrast to those of UAE officials, including Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansoori, the UAE’s Minister of Economy and chairman of the General Civil Aviation Authority.

Earlier this week, both men said that fifth freedom rights remain in place, with Al Mansoori saying that UAE airlines “can plan and begin new service, including fifth freedom flights, without limits.”

Bastian, for his part, said that Delta will be watching the enforcement of the agreement “like a hawk” and that any new fifth freedom flights “would call on the credibility of their government and the commitments they made to the US government.”

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Last Updated: Wed 16 May 2018 12:01 PM GST

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