* Flight delayed while Emirates searched for spare part
* Delta says it was last spare part of its kind in Seattle
By Alexander Cornwell
DUBAI, Feb 9 (Reuters) - Emirates has accused Delta Air Lines of harming its operations by refusing it a spare part for its aircraft in the United States, stoking tensions between U.S. and Gulf carriers feuding over state subsidies.
The Emirates flight from Seattle was delayed by more than six hours on Feb. 2, while it searched for the minor hydraulic part that needed replacing, an Emirates spokeswoman said.
Delta confirmed the incident, but said “this was the last spare part of its kind in our Seattle inventory and, according to policy, was kept on hand to ensure coverage for Delta’s own operation”.
“Having the right spare parts in the right places and in ample quantity is critical to ensuring a reliable airline operation for our customers,” Delta spokesman Michael Thomas said in emailed comments.
The hydraulic system part was initially fitted to the Emirates Boeing 777 by local engineers who had obtained the part from Delta, the Emirates spokeswoman said.
However, at the request of a “senior manager” at Delta’s headquarters in Atlanta the part was removed and returned just before passengers boarded resulting in a further delay, the spokeswoman said.
Delta is one of three U.S. carriers leading calls for the White House to limit the growth of major Gulf airlines.
“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,” the Emirates spokeswoman said.
An Emirates employee in Seattle offered a credit card to pay for the part, which it said was worth $300, but Delta refused, according to the spokeswoman.
It is common practice for airlines to loan parts to carriers away from their main base, Emirates said.
Delta said it regularly participated in spare-parts sharing with airlines.
The part was later sourced from codeshare partner Alaska Airlines.
Delta, American Airlines Group Inc, United Continental Holdings Inc are pushing for the new U.S. administration to denounce U.S. Open Skies agreements with the three major Middle Eastern carriers, which they accuse of having been unfairly subsidized by their governments.
The three airline - Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad - have denied they receive state subsidies.
Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker blamed Delta last June when its inaugural flight to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport landed without a gate allocation and passengers had to disembark via mobile stairs and shuttle buses.
Delta denied it had tried to obstruct the flight.
U.S. airline executives visited the White House on Thursday where President Donald Trump acknowledged U.S. carriers were under pressure from foreign airlines.
“They come with big investments, in many cases those investments come from their governments, but they are still big investments,” Trump said. (Reporting by Alexander Cornwell; editing by Susan Thomas)