Gulf carriers squeezing Euro airlines on long-haul

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Fifteen percent of all Europe to Asia air traffic last year was via one of the Gulf’s three major hubs, a new report has showed.

Analysis by aviation technology firm Amadeus said that traffic on long-haul routes via Dubai, Doha or Abu Dhabi rose by 10 percent in 2012, largely at the expense of Europe’s legacy operators.

European airlines including Air France-KLM and Lufthansa have suffered in recent years amid increased competition from Gulf carriers including Emirates Airline, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways.

A number have been vocal in their criticism of operators from the Gulf, which have been accused of benefiting from fuel subsidies and cheaper labour costs. Earlier this year, Air-France KLM CEO Jean-Cyril said it would be “suicide” for EU member airlines if restrictions on Gulf airlines flying into European airspace were remove.

Lufthansa CEO Christoph Franz has also previously been sceptical of Gulf carriers’ expansion in to Europe, claiming “governments must take action” and “introduce a capacity limit”.

Air travel between Europe and Asia through the Middle East grew by 20 percent last year, according to the Amadeus report, while overall traffic volumes between Europe and Asia were up 7 percent last year.

The report said that total passenger volumes travelling from airports in the Middle East were up 2 percent last year to 99m.

Overall, global air travel rose 5 percent in 2012 to 2.47bn passengers, according to the report.

“This data provides good news for the airline industry, showing that passenger air traffic has increased in every region of the world from 2011 to 2012,” commented Pascal Clement, head of travel intelligence, Amadeus.

“As in 2011, this growth is led by Asia, however, the data points to a further opportunity in the region, where the majority of traffic is on a small number of busy routes.”

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