United Airlines Employees to Protest Emirates Inaugural Athens Flight

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United Airlines announced Wednesday that its employees, along with several members of Congress from New York and New Jersey, would stage a protest on Sunday at Newark Liberty International Airport, where the inaugural flight by Emirates Airlines is set to depart for Athens, Greece.

The fury surrounding Emirates’ new non-stop flight between New York/Newark Liberty International Airport and Athens Eleftherios Venizelos International is the latest episode since the Middle East carrier announce the route in January.

United and its unions expect to draw between 150 and 200 people to the protest.

The three largest U.S. airlines— American, United and Delta— all protested that the route was a violation of an Open Skies Agreement between the United States and the Gulf States. A lobbying group representing the U.S. airlines was able to convince two dozen members of Congress to write a letter to President Donald Trump to ask him to intercede.

The three Middle Eastern Airlines, known in the industry as the ME3 have denied these allegations.

Emirates has reported 28 straight years of profitability while returning more than $3 billion in dividends to the airline’s investors. Officials also point to annual audits by global accounting firms that prove the airline doesn’t receive state subsidies. The airline issued a point by point response, refuting claims of state support by the government.

And the airline is also fighting back the U.S. airlines’ claims with accusations of their own, as well as pages and pages of counter-claims and evidence that the airline hasn’t broken any rules.

In 2015, Emirates released a report that accused the US airlines of receiving more than $100 billion in support from the U.S. government since 2002 in the form of government assumption of pension responsibilities, bankruptcy protection, antitrust immunity, direct grants, loan guarantees, and tax exemptions.

The airline is also claiming that they are serving an underserved market, since they will be the only airline flying non-stop between the United States and Greece, year-round.

“The New York-Athens route was underserved by other carriers — no airline has operated a year-round, nonstop service between the US and Greece for more than five years,” the Emirates representative told The Pappas Post in an email, adding that “We are launching our New York-to-Athens service following multiple requests from Athens International Airport and the Greek aviation authorities, and after careful study, we believe it will be commercially successful and mutually beneficial to the US, Greece, and the UAE.”

United currently operates daily service between Newark and Athens, but only for a few months in the summer when travel to Greece is at peak, leaving winter travelers and business travelers, as well as many families who travel to Greece during the winter months with the option of connecting flights.

The same applies for Delta, which operates seasonal service between New York’s JFK airport and American, which connects Philadelphia and Athens— both during peak summer travel months, but not year-round.

Emirates recently placed the largest aircraft order in U.S. history— valued at $76 billion for 150 planes— with Boeing. The airline currently operates the world’s largest fleet of Boeing 777 planes. In a press release at the time of the order, Emirates claimed the single order with Boeing was “creating and supporting an estimated 436,000 jobs in the US.”

United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz admitted, in a Business insider interview that it was all about the economics of the airline industry and United only flies seasonally to Greece, because, “that’s where the demand is.”

 

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4 Comments

  1. The US carriers are beyond “wrong” in their alarm call for help on this one. Emirates has been one of the fastest growing airlines in the world because of their service and quality. They’ll have to fill that USA built Boeing 777 jet with local USA supplied jet fuel, and New Jersey local staff. This route goes to “Greece, which unfortunately does not have a strong national carrier. When Our us carriers complain about foreign government subsidies, they won’t mention all the bankruptcies that our US government allowed United and its predecessors to go through to shed debt that US taxpayers had to make up, or the workers of United that got screwed on, losing profit sharing, ESOPs, timeclock rules, decent healthcare benefits, stock that became worthless, and other lies that were perpetrated on their workers. The flying public that has been loyal to United is finally seeing slight improvements to their product and staff attitude under Oscar Munoz’s leadership as he tries to end battles between workers and management. But United needs to do a lot more than replacing “Pepperidge Farm goldfish crackers” with healthy carrot chips to compete with the rest of the world Airlines. Ironic that Newark, New Jersey is the focal point. The corrupt actions by UA there a couple years ago lead to a wholesale shake up of their management team. Just “google” the “United the Chairmans flight”. Or go out to the airport and see the beautiful terminal facilities that UA has, and compare that to the third world terminal that American and Virgin America have for gates….

  2. It’s a case of “I’m not using my ball but you can’t use it!” US airlines chose not to provide year-round service, and when they do, they use an old B767 with terrible inflight product. A competitor has started the route, and they are crying foul. This is a benefit to the flying public.

  3. Ginger Melbourne Meredith on

    Talk about a protectionist attitude. UA you should be ashamed of yourselves! If you want continued patronage – then provide a service that is being demanded. I will never, ever fly UA – it might be United by name – but definitely not by nature. Welcome Emirates and as long as they offer affordable travel deals throughout the year and not jam us into the 777 like sardines, I will always fly with them.

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