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Delta plans more international flights in wake of U.S.-Emirates deal


Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian said the airline is planning to launch more international flights after a U.S.-United Arab Emirates deal to resolve a long-standing dispute over airline competition.

“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 said. 

Delta discontinued flights from Atlanta to Dubai in February 2016.

“That was one of the markets that we’ve been run out of,” Bastian said. “We’ve been run out of India,” after previously operating flights to Mumbai. Competing connecting traffic across the globe hurts other international flights, he said.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.A.E. Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan met Monday in Washington, and the U.S. State Department said the deal is “aimed at ensuring a level playing field in the global aviation sector,” according to a written statement.

Delta, United and American had alleged that Dubai-based Emirates and Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways, along with Qatar Airways, received unfair subsidies from their respective governments.

Bastian said in the deal, the U.A.E. carriers confirmed that they have no intent to add more so-called “fifth freedom” flights between the United States and countries other than the U.A.E.

Should the U.A.E. carriers’ plans change on fifth freedom flights, “I think it would call on the credibility of their government and the commitments they made to the U.S. government, and as you know those relationships are very important,” Bastian said.

The agreement with the Emiratis comes after a similar U.S.-Qatar deal.

“Now we move into the next phase, which is the enforcement,” Bastian said. “We’ll be watching this thing like a hawk.”

Delta had urged its employees to call, tweet and e-mail the White House and members of Congress to raise concerns about the issue.

Bastian said the deal memorialized Friday “affirmed that tens of thousands of Delta people who spent the time to make sure their voices were heard, were heard.”


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About the Author

Business reporter Kelly Yamanouchi covers airlines and the airport.