The chief of Air France-KLM has urged European governments to curb access to markets for Gulf carriers unless they demonstrate that they are competing on a level playing field with their EU rivals.
Speaking to the Financial Times, Jean-Cyril Spinetta said it would be “suicide” for EU member airlines if restrictions on Gulf airlines flying into European airspace were removed unless it is accompanied by assurances about fair competition.
“If you compete with [Gulf carriers] in an open sky situation, it’s sort of suicide. It means European air will disappear,” the chairman and chief executive of Air France-KLM said.
Gulf airlines, including Etihad, Dubai’s Emirates and Qatar Airways, are rapidly expanding their fleet providing European airlines with stiff competition on long haul routes. The government-owned airlines are regularly criticised by rival European carriers who claim government subsidies and access to cheap financing have allowed them to expand quickly.
While Gulf carriers have strongly denied receiving government subsidies, Spinetta - whose airline signed a codeshare agreement with Etihad last year - said Emirates benefits from lower airport user fees at its Dubai hub compared to Air France in Paris.
He also claimed that Gulf airlines may be able to tap cheaper finance their European rivals because they are state-controlled.