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Emirates focuses on US codeshare partners after Gulf dispute

Emirates Airline has no plans to partner with any of the US mainline carriers, and will instead focus on building its codeshare relationships with Alaska Airlines and JetBlue Airways, following the close of a years-long dispute over open skies.

The Dubai-based carrier's senior vice-president for North America Matthias Schmid says Emirates remains optimistic about serving the US market, after the settlement reached in May by the United Arab Emirates and US governments to resolve the conflict over alleged subsidies to Emirates and Etihad Airways.

"We continue to be very optimistic about our operations in the US," Schmid tells FlightGlobal. "The closure of this issue permits Emirates to solely focus on providing our customers with greater competitive choice and the best travel experience possible."

The US government reached a similar agreement with the Qatari government in January. The deals with Qatar and the UAE settle a dispute initiated in 2015 by American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines, which allege that Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways received more than $40 billion in subsidies from their states.

While the governments have affirmed their existing open-skies agreements, the airlines on both sides of the conflict have indicated they will not be jumping into any commercial relationships with one another anytime soon.

"At this time, Emirates does not have any plans to partner with those [US mainline] carriers," says Schmid, who declines to comment further. However, he says that Emirates will continue to consider the US market as among its most important growth areas.

"We plan to continue building on our decade-plus of successful operations here together with our codeshare partners – JetBlue and Alaska Airlines," says Schmid.

Emirates has an extensive codeshare agreement with the two US carriers. It markets more than 3,200 flights weekly operated by Alaska and JetBlue, FlightGlobal schedules data show.

Delta chief executive Ed Bastian has said the airline has "no plans" to pursue ties with the Gulf carriers, while American chief Doug Parker indicated the carrier is taking a wait-and-see approach after the government deals. American ended its codeshare relationships with Etihad and Qatar earlier this year.

Qatar, who is a Oneworld member alongside American, has said it is open to codeshare talks with the US carrier.

Emirates recently began nonstop service to Newark, complementing its existing one-stop service via Athens. It also operates thrice daily to New York John F Kennedy, with one of the three flights making a stop in Milan.

Schmid says the airline expects strong demand for the nonstop Newark flight from passengers connecting via Dubai to the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, the Far East and Africa.

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