Emirates chief sees scant benefit from EU-level aviation deals
By Julia Fioretti
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The chief of Dubai-based airline Emirates [EMIRA.UL] expressed doubts on Monday that an EU-level aviation agreement with the United Arab Emirates would improve on the existing deals the Gulf country has with most EU countries.
In June European member states gave the executive European Commission a mandate to pursue air traffic agreements with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, Turkey and countries in southeast Asia to try to support the European aviation sector.
Such agreements, now often done on a bilateral basis by individual governments, would set out where and how often foreign airlines could fly into the EU, and vice versa.
But the initiative has been eyed with suspicion by Gulf carriers such as Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways, who have faced accusations of receiving unfair state subsidies from European legacy airlines, notably Lufthansa LHAG.DE and Air France KLM (AIRF.PA: Quote), as well as major U.S. ones. The Gulf airlines have firmly rejected the allegations.
"It is in the view of Emirates that we have more in the current agreements than we anticipate the mandate giving us," Emirates president Tim Clark told Reuters.
He added that he had not seen the mandate and therefore could be wrong, "but we have a very high bar, and I guess the government and the airlines would be interested to know how the mandate would improve that."
An EU source has said that the flying rights in the mandates for Qatar and the UAE are more restrictive than those for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Europe's aviation industry has been bitten by the rapid expansion of carriers from the Gulf region as well as shifting traffic flows to Asia. Continued...