Emirates launches controversial Newark-Athens flight

Emirates' first flight from Athens to Newark arrived on March 12.
Emirates' first flight from Athens to Newark arrived on March 12.

NEW YORK -- Emirates officially launched its daily flight between Newark and Athens on Monday, following protests by United Airlines employees against the service the day before in Newark.

The service is the first direct, year-round service between the Greek capital and the New York area in more than five years. United and Delta fly to Athens from Newark and JFK, respectively, but only during the summer months.

The flight also is Emirates' first out of Newark, making it the carrier's 12th U.S. gateway. Emirates flies four times daily to JFK -- once from Milan and three times from Dubai.

All three legacy U.S. airlines -- American, United and Delta -- opposed the service when Emirates announced it in January, claiming it violates the aviation agreement between the U.S. and the United Arab Emirates. Last week, 25 members of the New York and New Jersey congressional delegation sent a letter asking the president to stop the route from launching.

The Trump administration, however, allowed the Newark-Athens-Dubai flight to happen.

Emirates is convinced the route will be profitable year-round, even if other airlines aren't. Hubert Frach, Emirates' divisional senior vice president of commercial operations west, laid out several reasons why year-round service will be successful, the first being the large U.S.-based Greek community.

"They are definitely aching for a year-round service," he said. "They want to go nonstop in February and not only in July and August. We really believe that the Greek community will be strongly supportive."

Frach also pointed to Greek tourism initiatives that will "stretch out the tourism season" and Greece's strong cruise business. Beyond leisure, he noted that Athens is a major port and that there is always a lot of business travel when there is a big maritime segment.

"The market is completely underserved, we fill that gap," he said. 

Emirates is serving the route with a widebody Boeing 777-300ER. Introductory rates begin at $699 per person. Frach said Emirates is the only airline offering a first-class product on the route.

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