Delta's decision to discontinue its Atlanta-Dubai route effective Feb. 11 could present an opening for Emirates Airline, Delta's primary opponent in the ongoing Open Skies dispute.

“Our route planners are now closely studying the opportunity for Emirates to fill in the gap when Delta exits,” the Gulf carrier announced in a press release.

The statement came after Delta announced that it would terminate the service due to overcapacity on routes to the Middle East. In explanation, Delta said that is unable to compete on a level playing field with Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways, which Delta says have received $42 billion in government subsidies since 2004, violating international Open Skies agreements.

As Emirates announced that it will consider adding its own Dubai-Atlanta flight, it also forcibly dismissed Delta's explanation for dropping the route. Delta currently has no competition on the route, Emirates noted, and the flight flies at an average of more than 85% capacity.

“Emirates’ own studies indicate that Delta’s Atlanta-Dubai route was a highly profitable one, with an estimated route profitability of over $10 million per annum, or a route net margin of 7%,” Emirates said. “These are conservative estimates based on a combination of Delta’s published fares and simulated operating costs to fly a Boeing 777-200LR, the aircraft Delta uses on the route, based on Emirates’ own experience of operating the aircraft type between Dubai and the USA.”

In response, Delta said that is has been losing money on the Dubai-Atlanta route for two years.

“As a general rule, airlines don’t cancel profitable routes and Delta’s decision to cancel Atlanta-Dubai is no exception,” a spokeswoman said.

Delta said last week that it will redeploy the aircraft it uses for the Dubai-Atlanta route to other transatlantic markets.
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This report was updated on Wednesday with Delta's response.

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