Emirates chairman says governments need to improve landing rights or Gulf carriers could consider backtracking on aircraft deals
Emirates Airline Group chairman and chief executive Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum has lashed out at countries that block international airlines' expansion by limiting landing rights at their airports.
Announcing a series of multi-billion dollar deals with US-based Boeing and European rival Airbus, the Dubai boss suggested Gulf carriers may consider cancelling aircraft orders if landing rights are not improved.
Taking advantage of the international attention on the first day of the Dubai Airshow, Sheikh Ahmed said some governments were hindering business and affecting customer convenience by refusing to allow airlines more landing slots, in some cases to protect national carriers.
"We see that many countries so far don't update their policies. They're a bit, you can say, scared," he said.
"I think we need to open up; airports need business. This is why we are in Dubai... building another international airport, to have as much capacity (as possible).
"It's people's choice at the end of the day, where they want to fly, to which airport, on which airline."
He suggested that airlines may even consider cancelling aircraft orders from companies based in countries that blocked airline growth.
"We are buying a product from their countries... Why would we buy something when they will not allow us (to increase landing capacity)? Then they can take the aircraft back," he said.
"But I don't think something like this will happen.
"I always look at the future as positive and I think we'll be able to fly to more and more airports."
Sheikh Ahmed said there had been some reversal in government policies restricting airline access, citing Emirates' weekly flights to Australia increasing from seven in 1996 to about 100.
However, the airline has been hampered in attempts to increase services to Canada and India, in particular.
Canada's limiting of UAE landing rights to three times a week caused a major political spat for more than two years, until in April Air Canada signed a code-sharing agreement with Abu Dhabi's Etihad.
However, Emirates has continued to be blocked from expanding in the North American country.
Etihad, the UAE national carrier, also has taken up the country's increased seat allocation to India. The Indian and UAE governments in September agreed to allow Etihad and Jet Airways to add 36,670 seats per week over three years to 2015, on top of the current entitlement of 13,600.
"We always hope that countries will allow airlines to operate more freely into airport destinations," Sheikh Ahmed said.
"We'll fight it."
Emirates president Tim Clark said the airline was not in negotiations for more landing slots at London's Heathrow Airport, which is very close to capacity.