United Airlines announced Wednesday it will cancel its flight service from Washington to Dubai, due to a government contract being given instead to a “subsidized” local carrier, Reuters reported. The U.S. government awarded the contract for travel on the route in 2016 to JetBlue Airways and its codeshare partner, the Dubai-based Emirates. Although JetBlue does not fly to Dubai, it can sell tickets for Emirates’ flights, prompting criticism from United, which has accused the Middle Eastern carrier of getting subsidies from its government to buy more aircraft and drive down ticket prices.
United's last flight to Dubai will take off Jan. 25. “It is unfortunate that the [General Services Administration] 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,” Steve Morrissey, the airline’s regulatory and policy vice president, said in a statement. “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.”
The news comes after Delta, too, canceled its flight service from Atlanta to Dubai, starting in February 2016. Like United, it blamed the move on excess capacity from the Gulf carriers — which include Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways — making the route unprofitable, USA Today reported.
United estimated that Emirates will carry approximately 15,000 U.S. government employees, including active-duty military personnel. The airline, along with Delta and American Airlines, is pushing the Obama administration to address the subsidy allegations with the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.
United said customers can still book travel to Dubai through its partners, Deutsche Lufthansa and Air Canada.