Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Emirates Says Flight Was Delayed After Delta Withheld $300 Spare Part

Updated on
  • Mechanical fault stalled Seattle-Dubai service for six hours
  • Gulf carrier says U.S. rival located part but wouldn’t sell it

Emirates, the world’s biggest long-haul airline, said a flight from Seattle to Dubai was delayed for more than six hours after it was unable to obtain a $300 spare part from Delta Air Lines Inc., which has led a campaign against the expansion of Mideast carriers in the U.S.

A Boeing Co. 777 due to depart the American city at 9 a.m. on Feb. 2 was held up by a mechanical issue requiring the replacement of a minor hydraulic component, Emirates says. While the part was sourced from Delta’s local engineering office and installed on the plane, a senior manager at the U.S. carrier’s Atlanta base later ordered that it be removed, it claims.

“It is sad, in our view, that any airline would deny such standard technical assistance to another carrier based on orders from headquarters that had nothing to do with maintenance or cost, but seem clearly to have been intended to inflict harm on the airline and its customers,” Emirates said in an e-mail.

Delta shares parts with other airlines whenever possible through an industry agreement and doesn’t withhold them from any particular carrier, Delta spokesman Michael Thomas said. The item in question was the last spare of its kind in Delta’s Seattle inventory, and company policy requires that it keep the last one on hand in case Delta needs it, Thomas said.

“Having the right spare parts in the right places and in ample quantity is critical to ensuring a reliable airline operation for our customers,” Thomas said.

Gulf Dispute

Delta, together with American Airlines Group Inc. and United Continental Holdings Inc., is embroiled in a long-running dispute with the three main Gulf carriers after urging the federal government to block their growth on the grounds that they received illegal aid payments -- a suggestion that Emirates, Qatar Airways and Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways all reject.

The issue may be reignited after U.S. airline representatives met with Donald Trump Thursday, with the president telling them they faced “big league” competition, much of it “subsidized by governments.”

Qatar Air Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker branded Delta “wicked” last year after the Doha-based carrier’s first flight to Atlanta with the Airbus Group SE A380 superjumbo was directed to a remote gate at the world’s busiest airport, leaving elderly and infirm passengers to disembark via temporary stairs rather than through the usual air-bridge.

At the time, Delta said Qatar Airways was late in trying to secure gates for the A380 flight, which require special gates because of the jet’s size. Delta attempted to accommodate Qatar’s flight, despite the carrier’s tardiness, while making sure it could accommodate its own schedule, a company spokeswoman said in June.

Card Payment

In the incident this month, Emirates said Delta had refused a credit-card payment for the spare and ordered a local engineering provider to remove it from the 777. Code-share partner Alaska Airlines Inc. eventually came to the rescue by providing the part, leaving the flight to depart 6 hours and 24 minutes late.

“Despite this incident, Emirates will continue to render such technical support to other carriers, including Delta, irrespective of whether we agree or disagree with their policy views,” the Gulf company said.

Thomas, the Delta spokesman, said it wasn’t immediately clear Thursday why the company originally allowed Emirates to use the part before calling it back.

— With assistance by Michael Sasso

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