Etihad Airways will cancel all flights to Dallas-Fort Worth in Texas next year after the US carrier American Airlines said it will terminate its codeshare with the Abu Dhabi-based airline in March.
The flights from the UAE's capital to Dallas will become "commercially unsustainable" once the codeshare arrangement is severed in 2018, Etihad said on Thursday, adding that operations on the route will end as of March 25.
American Airlines in July announced it will end its business relationship with both Etihad and Qatar Airways. However, the UAE's national flag-carrier said it "remains open" to the US aviation operator reversing its decision. Like other US carriers, American Airlines has been emboldened by president Donald Trump's protectionist rhetoric that has escalated an ongoing battle to curb Gulf carriers' expansion in the US.
The three largest US carriers – American, Delta and United Airlines – claim expansion of airlines from the Arabian Gulf in the US breaches Open Skies agreements to regulate market competition. They also argue that airlines from the oil-rich region receive subsidies from their governments to "unfairly" spur their growth.
All three of the largest Gulf carriers - Etihad, Emirates and Qatar Airways - deny the claims and insist they have brought substantial economic benefits to the US. A 2016 report by Oxford Economics found Etihad had contributed a total of US$3.8 billion to the US economy, and supported more than 30,000 American jobs.
"The unfortunate decision by American Airlines to terminate a commercial relationship that benefited both carriers has left Etihad with no choice but to suspend flights between our Abu Dhabi home and Dallas/Fort Worth," Etihad Airways chief executive Peter Baumgartner said.
“We are open to American Airlines reversing its decision to cancel our codeshare agreement so that Etihad Airways can continue [to operate on] the route and together protect and support American national interests and global connectivity while driving commercial value for both airlines.”
The statement added that Etihad had "invested heavily" in the Dallas route since its launch in December 2014. It started with a thrice-weekly service and was upgraded to a daily flight in February 2017 in response to demand.
More than 235,000 travellers have flown on the route since its launch, and almost half of Etihad Airways’ Dallas-Fort Worth customers connect on US codeshare flights operated by American Airlines, Etihad said.
“The cancellation of the Dallas route is one of several adjustments that we are making to our US network in 2018 in order to improve system profitability. Further changes are possible as we monitor the full impact of the American Airlines codeshare cancellation on summer 2018 bookings," Mr Baumgartner said.
“Etihad Airways is grateful to the state of Texas, its authorities, including the mayors' offices in Dallas and Fort Worth, DFW International Airport, local businesses, the travel trade, and the travelling public for their partnership throughout the years of our operation.”