United Employees and Grandstanding Politicians are Protesting a New Flight at Newark Today

The new Emirates Newark – Athens – Dubai flight launches today.

  • This competes against United’s Newark – Athens flight, so they do not like this very much.

  • Delta, United, and American argue that competition from Emirates (and Etihad, Qatar) is unfair and in the long run bad for their businesses.

  • These legal 5th freedom routes don’t just carry customers into Pakistan and India, this new flight in addition to New York JFK – Milan competes directly with flights offered by US airlines (the horror).


Emirates Boeing 777

That Emirates is adding a new airport (Newark) without any other service in their network or economies of scale, and with a flight to Athens which is largely a leisure market (indeed yields so low Singapore Airlines has chosen to serve it with their low cost carrier Scoot) is a sign of the Gulf carriers’ weakness, not of their invincibility. There aren’t many routes left to send their widebodies.

United employees — and ironically politicians, whose favors the airline’s employees are supposed to be protesting — are coming out to make noise against the new flight.

United Airlines employees, labor leaders and elected officials will gather at Newark Liberty International Airport’s Terminal C this weekend to spotlight a real and growing threat to U.S. aviation jobs: Massive foreign subsidies enabling the rapid expansion of Emirates Airline, Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways.

On Sunday, Emirates Airline will continue its subsidy fueled growth in the U.S. with a new flight from Athens, Greece to Newark. Rally participants will call on the Trump Administration to enforce aviation trade agreements to support U.S. jobs.

WHEN: Sunday, March 12, 10:30 a.m. EDT
Media should plan to arrive by 10 a.m. EDT

WHERE: Newark Liberty International Airport
United Airlines, Terminal C ticketing lobby
Level 3 / Door #3

As Matthew notes, Emirates simply responds that they’re offering a legal product to serve the needs of consumers. (And while Emirates’ profits are down they’ve been consistently profitable, even when the US airline industry was pursuing uneconomic strategies.)

When United’s PR reps tried to get me to cover this uncritically, I told them I might have sympathy if:

  1. United hadn’t offloaded pension obligations on the federal government in bankruptcy while retaining tax loss carryforwards, and

  2. United hadn’t gotten its Tokyo Narita beyond operation [inherited from Pan Am] as part of the spoils of World War II (the ultimate government subsidy) and if today there weren’t fuel tax subsidies and lobbying to limit competition for the Dulles hub.

  3. there was any credible economic theory supporting protectionism for mature profitable industries with the highest employment levels in history.

I simply have a hard time getting behind fewer flight options and higher prices for customers, and the elimination of tourism jobs (the Gulf carriers bring a lot of people here, and from markets not well-served by US airlines), airline jobs at Alaska and JetBlue (which partner with Emirates), and the likely retaliatory loss of Fedex’s Gulf hub.

United, American, and Delta failed to convince the Obama administration there was anything improper that required government intervention. Now they’re getting behind Donald Trump and hoping anti-Muslim sentiment will overturn the analysis done by the Departments of State, Transportation, and Commerce on this.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. Oh, my heart bleeds for our USA carriers, as I comment from a distant land. I’m temporarily working for the US Government on a consultancy to try to help local reformers fight corruption and unfair favoritism here. I had to fly here on a USA carrier flight at a higher cost to US taxpayers because of the Fly America Act.

  2. US carriers used to offer frequent flier programs to keep you loyal. They devalued these programs so that you only earn a fraction of the miles you once did. On a recent United trip I earned 5 times as many miles from a car rental that cost 1/4 of what my flight cost. So I now choose flights based on price and if I decide to go to Greece later this summer I will consider Emirates.

  3. Gary, I am not a fan of your blog, but in this case, I congratulate you for highlighting the bigotry of US carriers and their paid stooges in Congress.

  4. Gary, I echo “Adrian’s” comments. You have shown why you are among the more credible travel bloggers and not just writing a blog to write one or to “show” people.

    I would love to fly US metal but haven’t in almost 15 years internationally. I think the last time was DL from PDX to NRT biz, I think it was the duck taped seats or maybe no in flight entertainment or wait maybe it was the food !

    EK was been my go to for Africa and returning from Europe to the west coast. Actually doing EK over this year and BA back. paid biz

  5. @ghostriders: There’s IFE on all long haul aircrafts on DL now, including PDX/NRT biz (B767 usually). Things have changed a lot in 15 years.

  6. I echo all of the above sentiments, especially about airline loyalty and frequent flyer programs. No matter, UA will still keep sucking in newbies with their wonderful commercials and excellent 50K bonus on their Chase card (cough). The only reason I use UA is if I have no better choice. I went to ORD this week. I would have used Frontier out of Trenton but the UA $114 RT fare caught my eye first. I got a whopping 404 miles for that. $4 worth of miles. Wow. I can barely contain myself. What a loyalty program. I would have to fly that route 310 times to earn one coach international reward. Not that the other US legacy carriers are any better, but that trip used to yield a few thousand miles. And if you view the reward charts, 25K used to get you across the country. I can’t even get to NOLA for that now. Back to the point about Athens, if UA can’t seem to make that route profitable, they can always simply stop flying there. That’s what a responsible business owner would do. Shed the unprofitable parts of the business. I sure would love to have the Federal government ensure that my business had less competition.

  7. AA+UA+DL are keeping artificially high prices for international travel out of US. Just try any US -> Europe roundtrip itineraries in reverse to see the difference. Domestically, they are now joined by LUV in keeping prices up.
    I think Gulf carriers + Norwegian are the only hope for US consumers now.
    Norwegian is not subsidized.

  8. A very fair analysis, Gary, many thanks. I do enjoy reading and commenting on your blog posts.

    Athens (as well as Milan) are two markets that very much deserve to have more competition to/from New York. Healthy competition = better prices for consumers and improved products from legacy airlines.

    We live in the brave new world of social media where everyone and their kid sister tweets photos of their seats, their food, and their onboard experience. I am sad to say one of the filthiest planes I ever flew on was Untied from Newark to Honolulu, a 10-1/2 hour nonstop with no free meals (cuz it’s a ‘domestic’ flight). I recently used Lufthansa miles to fly Kona to San Francisco and fortunately that plane was clean and service was terrific. But I experienced so many horrific Untied flights in years past that I swore I’d never pay for a ticket on Untied again.

    Fact is: competition is the American way and it drives innovation. Delta is bringing back meals on transcon flights for a reason.

    And meanwhile Untied continues to fly one of the world’s most profitable routes with disgusting old 737s because it benefits from US government regulations. That route would be the island hopper Guam – Truk – Pohnpei – Kosrae – Kwajalein – Majuro – Honolulu.

  9. We say competition is the American way, but is it really? I see most American companies do all they can to eliminate competition. Why should USA airlines be any different? The government works with them to help reduce/eliminate competition for corporations–in fact, government is the servant of the corporations. And becomes more so every day. Competition is the American way? Ha. It’s all lip service if you ask me.

  10. They should really consider changing the name of the airport from Newark “Liberty” to Newark “Protectionist” International Airport.

  11. This is great news! I fully support this new Emirates route and I hope they add more. I see nothing wrong with competition. United hasn’t supported me as a former 1K for over a decade so why should I support them. I’m tired of lousy service and constant devaluations to my Mileage Plus account. If United offered a better product they wouldn’t have to worry about competition. I hope Emirates adds hundreds of new routes for more competition. United can stick their slim line seats where the sun don’t shine!

  12. I cannot disagree with the above expressions of angst and disgust how the highly tuned competitive industry of North American airlines turned against its very own customers; continues to pay lobbyists to foment antagonism against high speed rail proposals in FL, CA, and TX. However:
    1) Is our trade agreements, i.e., open skies, not worth the paper they are written on, as they are not about free trade, but unfair trade?
    2) Why is our own ExIm Bank subsidizing Gulf airline purchases from Boeing, when they have plenty of their own funds to cover the costs? That just puts our taxpayers at risk if these airlines tank, despite their government subsidies. Also, it has the U.S. taxpayer as their bank to front their expansion against our own airlines.
    3) In this growing era of terrorism, and our re-focusing on the issue with this new administration, why do we tolerate Qatar, if not even the Emirates, from financially and emotionally banking terrorists, such as Hamas, PLO, etc?

    Exactly what weight do these countries have to spit on the open skies agreement, as they leverage the American taxpayer in their purchases of planes; simultaneously prolonging the agony of terrorism by supporting those groups anathema to western civilization? Eventually, somebody has to bear the impact of these hidden subsidies –that will be at the cost of our airline market and employment. Are we really that enamored with a race to the bottom?

  13. Are you kidding me Unitedairlines – you are basically protesting against competition so we consumers are forced to pay shitty prices to sit on your shitty uncomfy seats, receiving shitty customer service on top of that. Screw that. As a long time customer and a current gold member, I’m excited to see some real competition shake up the airline industry a bit.

  14. @Rail Provocateur – ExIm bank is a subsidy to Boeing (and companies like GE). That’s why it exists. Like United, Boeing lobbies for special subsidies and you pay for it.

  15. I’m surprised that UA, DL & AA aren’t complaining against the competition from the mainland Chinese carriers. Airlines like Hainan, etc are currently bringing biz class fares down to China by more than 50%. Bring more flights on!!!! Now that the mainline carriers have lost our loyalty I think this competition is great. Who needs award tickets when I can fly biz class for $2500 to China. Years ago I would never think about flying anyone other than UA to HK or China but today I am loving the disruption to the market that these new carriers are bringing! What goes around comes around.

  16. LOL ohhh United. You were happy enough to get a bailout (subsidies from the government) to the tune of over a billion dollars. Now it’s a bad thing when other airlines do the same….

    What a joke.

  17. Personally, and selfishly, I can’t wait for either Norwegian or any of the three MEC’s to start flying from CLT.

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