American CEO Doug Parker told reporters earlier this month that his biggest concern with regards to the Gulf carriers is their ability to operate flights from outside their home region. Currently, that includes only the fifth freedom Milan – New York JFK flight operated by Emirates.
That specific flight became a real point of contention in August when the GSA (General Services Administration) awarded JetBlue the contract for government employee travel from New York to Milan, despite the fact that American, Delta, and United (as well as Alitalia) all operate daily flights on the route. JetBlue of course does not fly the route, but has a codeshare with Emirates which enabled JetBlue to submit their bid and ultimately win the contract.
Jill Zuckman, spokeswoman for the Partnership for Fair and Open Skies, called the GSA decision “a violation of the Fly America act and a poke in the eye to Congress.” The U.S. carriers use their own (aircraft and crews) to fly this route,” she said. “JetBlue couldn’t fly this route if it wanted to” because JetBlue lacks long-haul aircraft.
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