JetBlue Airways A318-321 airplane
Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

JetBlue Awarded Government Contract for Service to Dubai in 2016 — But There is One Minor Detail…

“I n August, the General Services Administration (GSA) announced that it awarded the U.S. government contract for 2016 on the Washington-Dubai route to JetBlue” is the statement which appears in this article at the official news site of United Airlines known as United Hub — but there is one minor detail: “JetBlue has no service to the Middle East and no presence in the region.”


JetBlue Awarded Government Contract for Service to Dubai — But Which Airline Benefits Most?

You read that correctly: an airline based in the United States was awarded a contract with the United States government for a flight to a city in the Middle East even though most of its airplanes never leave the North American continent — save for several destinations in northern South America…

…so which airline was actually “awarded” the route?

The Ultimate Codeshare — or The Ultimate in Outsourcing?

Emirates Airline — which is an official codeshare partner with JetBlue — will be solely operating this route and will be carrying an estimated 15,000 government employees of the United States, which includes active duty military personnel whose official travel is funded by taxpayers of the United States.

Reduced Service to Dubai by Airlines Based in the United States

As a result of this news in what is considered to be the latest in the escalating war between the three legacy carriers based in the United States and the three largest airlines based in the Persian Gulf region, United Airlines is discontinuing its service between Washington Dulles Airport and Dubai. The last departure from Washington Dulles Airport to Dubai will be on Saturday, January 23, 2016; and the last departure from Dubai will be on Monday, January 25, 2016.

Even though we successfully operated the Washington-Dubai route for the past seven years, the entry of subsidized carriers such as Emirates Airline and Etihad Airways into the Washington, D.C. market has created an imbalance between supply and demand to the United Arab Emirates. As they’ve added subsidized capacity, our Washington-Dubai route has become less profitable.

“It is unfortunate that the GSA awarded this route to an airline that has no service to the Middle East and will rely entirely on a subsidized foreign carrier to transport U.S. government employees, military personnel and contractors,” said Steve Morrissey, who is the regulatory and policy vice president at United Airlines. “We believe this decision violates the intent of the Fly America Act, which expressly limits the U.S. government from procuring commercial airline services directly from a non-U.S. carrier. For the Washington to Dubai route, JetBlue merely serves as a booking agent for Emirates.”

Lufthansa Group and Air Canada will continue to serve Dubai for those who seek to use commercial airlines who are members of Star Alliance.

This news follows an official announcement on Wednesday, October 28, 2015 from Delta Air Lines that effective as of Thursday, February 11, 2016, the carrier will no longer provide commercial air service between Atlanta and Dubai. “The announcement comes amid overcapacity on U.S. routes to the Middle East operated by government-owned and heavily subsidized airlines, and less than a month after Delta reduced service between the world’s busiest airport and the Middle East’s largest hub.”


Leaders of the three legacy airlines based in the United States continuously claim that the three largest airlines based in the Persian Gulf region have expanded rapidly with illegal government subsidies totaling a minimum of $42 billion and that they cannot compete.

“Of all airlines in the world, 49 percent [of profit] is made by the three American carriers…what more do they want?” Akbar al-Baker — who is the chief executive officer of Qatar Airways — reportedly asked at a press conference in New York, according to this article written by Jessica Plautz of Mashable. He then reportedly said of Richard Anderson — who is the chief executive officer of Delta Air Lines — “Let him come face to face with me in any forum. I will hang him on a wall.”

That is not the first time that al-Baker has launched a verbal missive at Anderson, as this gem was reportedly said back in March of 2015: “I am delighted that Richard Anderson of Delta is not here. First of all, we don’t fly crap airplanes that are 35 years old. The Qatar Airways average fleet (age) is only four years and one month.”

When I hypothetically asked whether or not the three airlines based in the Persian Gulf region could sustain a prolonged period of lower fuel prices — if indeed they were being subsidized illegally by their respective governments, as the chief executive officers of the three legacy airlines based in the United States allege — a reader of The Gate who goes by the name Paul posted this comment: “Our own economy hasn’t been doing great for a while now and we are continuing subsidizing American/United/Delta. What makes you think this wouldn’t be the case for the Middle East?”

It is time for all of the airlines involved to come clean and show their cards. All of these allegations and accusations being thrown back and forth is not doing anyone any good, in my opinion — but then, what do I know?…

…and the General Services Administration announcing that it awarded the United States government contract for 2016 on the Washington-Dubai route to JetBlue just seems odd at best. Did JetBlue offer a bid significant low enough as compared to its domestic competition — and if so, could that bid possibly have been subsidized by Emirates Airline?

I would like to hear your thoughts on what has become a debacle in terms of relations between the six airlines in question.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

  1. This makes me furious! As an airline employee who flew to Dubai for years, I simply cannot believe that our government would award this trip to a middle eastern based airline! What moron decided that it would be wise for Emirates to transport American government employees and troops? What kind of security guidelines would they have in place to guarantee the safety of our people? Government subsidized airlines and their brutish ceo’s should not compete with american carriers.

  2. The Qatar CEO should be ashamed of himself. He was quoted yesterday saying he would hang Delta CEO on a wall. So typical for that part of the world, hang him on a wall, or a bridge, or behead him right? Maybe a car bomb or AK-47? Just incredible….

    The middle eastern airlines continue to be government owned, operated and financed to the tune of $42 billion dollars in the last 10 years. US carriers continue to shrink their international presence due to an inability to compete against the government-owned airlines that are selling their product for cheaper than the cost to produce it. Which is illegal worldwide, it’s called product dumping.

    The US government should ban all state-owned carriers from flying to the US…. Especially Etihad, Qatar and Emirates, who employ a business model that has nothing to do with any concept of fair business practices. In each case the airline involved is shamelessly coddled by its respective home nation. They don’t pay taxes, they get to write their own regulations (they get to enforce them as well!), and they get a price break on everything from facilities, to fuel, to wide-body jets which are financed by the U.S. Treasury through the Export-Import Bank.

    Furthermore…the middle eastern carriers don’t negotiate with their employee groups because unions are illegal where they are headquartered. Even proposing such a thing would get you deported or imprisoned. These DYNASTIC MONARCHIES, AUTOCRACIES have no consideration of human rights. They have every intention of using their artificial advantages to fly to every corner of the world, though they have NO INTENTION of growing beyond a feudalism (circa the 700’s) and actually open their closed societies. If you are a US citizen and you have anything to do with these companies…shame on you.

  3. This is unbelievable. This government needs to go. Giving this contract to a foreign carrier is reprehensible. How dare you take my job away from me and give it to Emerites. How dare you! There is a law that says all government employees must fly on an American carrier. Jet Blue may be an American airline, but they DONT fly INTERNATIONAL. They use EMERITES. Your tax dollars are going to a Missle Eastern Carrier. I am so appalled.

  4. Good, we subsidize our own carriers too, at least now people don’t have to endure United’s delays, cancellations and 4 across business class. They can fly a real business class product.

    JetBlue buys the seats on Emirates so a US carrier is still profiting as well. Maybe if United had process the seat better they would have won the contract.

    1. I don’t know how you think that the US government ‘subsidizes’ American carriers. Quite the contrary. The airline industry in the US is the most heavily taxed industry in the country.

    2. United doesn’t discriminate
      In hiring practices as do these
      Middle eastern airlines. And the list of human rights violations on the part of your new favorite Dubai connection goes on and on. Comparing them to any major US airline It’s like comparing apples and oranges.

    3. I agree with Scott.. the American owned airlines can not compare with the price, service, and punctuality of the “other ” airlines..

  5. Shame shame I will say it again shame on our government for awarding this trip to JetBlue…. First of all you have taken bread of life away from the United airlines’ employees secondly what makes you think that Emirates
    can carry out our troops better than the American carriers???? Bunch of hypocrites….shame on you all… It’s because of your obnoxious decisions that the American carriers can’t compete with the Middle East Airlines.

  6. Read your article and was fascinated but it, in that I worked in an office a few years ago at SATO, which was a ticketing function on/off military bases. Of course, we used government fares ONLY on US carriers. Now this JETBLUE code share is coming in the back door, and using it for Emirates advantage. Of course, they will go as low as they can in pricing. The CEO from Middle Eastern carrier said that “what more do they want, as they have 49% of the market. Those 3 carriers want all the US business. The USA is a massive country with close to 300 million people, how many people live (and can travel financially) live in their countries, so everything is proportionate. I think the FLY AMERICA act must be pursued in this case. And stop this obvious violation of intent of the law, GSA does indeed cover military people.

  7. I’ve made this flight many times on US and foreign carriers. The quality of service on US carriers doesn’t hold a candle to foreign airlines. I would prefer to fly on Emirates, Qatar or Ethiad over United or Delta any day. If this was a quick, 2-hour flight I would suck it up and fly a US carrier, but this is a 14 hour ride and I would rather not tolerate the borderline-rude, elderly, US flight attendants serving 1 poor quality meal and a bad snack, while watching an out of date collection of movies on inflight entertainment. Not to mention “free” vs “pay as you go” alcohol! Provide good serive at a competative price and I’ll fly “American”. Otherwise, I am going for value and quality.

    1. Mark you took the words right out of my mouth… thank you!
      Emirates has always been my first choice to Dubai and India.. they offer promotions not found on USA airlines and the service and entertainment on their aircraft can not be compared to any American airline. USA airline attendants always appear to be busy and wiz by your seat quickly during the flight hoping you won’t ask for something…

  8. This is not about who is the most comfortable or airline employees keeping their jobs. It’s about the US Government essentially contracting with a FOREIGN airline!!! If JetBlue wants to bid on the contract, then THEY had better find their OWN airplanes to do the service.

    Not sure how anyone could possibly do a better job of violating the INTENT of the law!

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