Emirates Airline operated the first rotation of its controversial fifth-freedom Dubai-Athens-New York Newark service March 13, following a weekend of protests by US airlines’ staff.

US airlines have asked the Trump administration to block the new service and look again at the Open Skies agreements between the US and Gulf states.

The route, operated by a Boeing 777-300ER, has rekindled 2015’s complaints from US carriers about the growing reach and breadth of the major Gulf carriers, which some US airlines and trades unions argue is the result of hidden subsidies from the United Arab Emirates and Qatari governments to their respective airlines.

The new service makes Newark Emirates’ 12th US gateway; it already serves New York JFK.

“This new route will connect America’s largest metropolitan area and Dubai through one of Europe’s great capitals,” Emirates divisional SVP-commercial operations west Hubert Frach said.

He added that the launch of the year-round daily service would bring capacity to “a route long neglected by other airlines. We expect this service to generate consistently high demand and enhance business, culture and leisure connections on both sides of the Atlantic.”

Emirates has pointed out that US carriers serve Athens on only a seasonal basis and Athens city authorities approached the Dubai-based airline, seeking the connection.

Newark authorities warmly greeted the new service. Airport GM Diane Papaianni said new air services, route expansions and partnerships were always welcome.

The new route was described as “a spectacular development for the Athens market, enhancing its connectivity and presenting the traveling public with new travel options,” the Greek capital’s airport CEO Yiannis Paraschis added.

“Athens’ strong traffic volumes to and from the US, underpinned by the vibrant Greek-American community, signify the potential and the success of the route.” Greece has seen a double-digit increase in US-based tourists over the past two years.

An estimated 200 Chicago-based United Airlines employees gathered March 12 at Newark, which is a United hub, to protest the new Emirates service, which they said was another example of subsidized Arab carriers undermining the US airline sector. United operates a seasonal flight to Athens.

Alan Dron alandron@adepteditorial.com