• Delta blames cuts on Gulf airline’s increasing number of flights to US cities
  • Open skies row between US and Gulf airlines has been simmering for months
  • Qatar Airways has recently started nonstop flight to Atlanta

Delta Airlines has announced dropping the number of its daily non-stop flights between its Atlanta hub and Dubai to four or five times a week starting from 1 October.

London-based Reuters quoted Delta spokesman Trebor Basntetter saying that the reduction in the number of flights is a result of overcapacity on US routes to the Middle East, operated by what he characterises as government-owned and subsidised airlines.

Reuters noted in its report that Delta had been expecting for the past five months to reduce the number of flights on the route due to the fall in crude oil prices, which is expected to weaken travel demand in oil-rich markets such as the GCC, and the strong dollar that could hurt spending power of foreign travellers.

The surprising part about the announcement is Delta’s primary attribution of its flight reduction to competition from the Gulf airlines.

A major row between the US’ ‘Big Three’ carriers – Delta, American and United – and three of the Gulf’s major airlines – Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad – has been simmering over the past few months. The Big Three have alleged that the latter has received more than $42bn-worth of unfair subsidies from their home governments over the past decade in violation of the bilateral open skies agreement.

Emirates and Qatar Airways airlines have presented their formal rebuttals to the US airlines’ allegations in Washington in June and July, respectively. The issue is currently being reviewed by the Obama administration.

Emirates currently flies non-stop from Dubai to nine US cities: Boston; New York; Chicago; Dallas/Fort Worth; Houston; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Seattle; and Washington, DC. It begins its tenth non-stop flight to Orlando in September and currently operates a freighter service between Atlanta and Dubai. Qatar Airways, on the other hand, began offering a non-stop flight to Atlanta in July this year.

Stay informed with the latest in the Middle East
Download the MEED app today, available on Apple and Android devices