Lufthansa encouraging Canada to block Emirates expansion, claims Flanagan

The Dubai-based carrier said Canada is being “egged on” by the German carrier to restrict Gulf access to the Canadian market
STRONG REBUTTAL: Emirates Airline executive vice president Maurice Flanagan. (ITP Images)
By Shane McGinley
Mon 06 Dec 2010 09:02 AM

Germany’s Lufthansa, Europe’s largest airline, is encouraging Canadian authorities to block Emirates Airline’s bid to expand the number of flights it operates to Canada, the vice chairman of the Dubai-based carrier told Arabian Business.

“They are targeting Emirates, being egged on by Lufthansa… It is purely the protection of Air Canada,” Maurice Flanagan, vice chairman of Emirates Airline, told Arabian Business of Canadian authorities refusal to allow the Dubai-based carrier to increase the number of flights it operates to Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver.

“We have perfect open skies to the United States, we can fly anywhere we wish with any capacity and any frequency so we go to New York, San Francisco, Los Angles they are all non-stop. Canada we are restricted to three flights a week [which is] absolutely ridiculous when the market is there for double daily Toronto, double daily Vancouver, and double daily Calgary. The market is there,” Flanagan added.

The breakdown of talks between the two governments in October has resulted in the deterioration of diplomatic relations between the two countries, with the UAE recently increasing visa restrictions for Canadian visitors.

While Canada has said the current number of flights are enough to service the market between the two countries, Flanagan disagreed: “They know it’s simply not true, there are 26,000 Canadians working here, enormous trade between just Dubai, not just the UAE, that’s ten times as much with Switzerland but they’ve given Switzerland open skies, all in protection of Air Canada.”

Canadians travelling to the Middle East currently have to transit through major European airports, such as Frankfurt, which is the main hub for Germany’s Lufthansa. Lufthansa and Air Canada are linked through their membership of the Star Alliance airline association.

“(Air Canada) would rather its passengers be diverted through hubs in Europe to access these destinations; no matter how inconvenient, costly or time-consuming… Why should Canadian consumers be dictated to by the narrow interests of Air Canada’s and its fellow Star Alliance member Lufthansa?” Emirates said in a press brochure issued last month.

Looking to the future, Flanagan believes the issue is no longer just about landing right and is now a bigger diplomatic issue: “It is heavily political now; we are almost out of the picture.”

GCC airlines, such as Etihad, Dubai’s Emirates and Qatar Airways have recently been criticised by European airlines, which say government subsidies and access to cheap financing have allowed Gulf carriers to expand rapidly.

Emirates overtook Lufthansa last year as the biggest carrier on international flights, following a sixfold increase in traffic since 2000, when it ranked 24th.

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