By Neil Halligan
Qatar Airways Al Baker denies subsidy allegations, UAE airlines to address US audience tonight
As the ongoing row between Gulf carriers and US airlines hots up, Emirates said it is still considering legal action against those who have accused it of unfair competition.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Sir Tim Clark, Emirates CEO, speaking before he mets with transport officials in Washington on Monday, said he intended to address the damaging allegations.
“We will deal with [the allegations] line by line. They will be eating their words,” he was quoted as saying.
Clark said the allegations made by Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and United Airlines - that Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways have benefited from $42 billion in state subsidies over the past decade - have the potential to cause damage to other markets, particularly in Europe.
The European Commission announced last Friday that it will address French and German concerns over what they see as unfair subsidies to Gulf carriers when it proposes a commercial aviation agreement with the Gulf region later this year.
“If we establish there has been commercial damage as a result of what has been said about us... all options are on the table,” including legal action, he told the Financial Times.
Etihad Airways’ CEO James Hogan is also in Washington, where he will later address the allegations in a keynote speech at the 14th annual Aviation Summit. The theme of the summit, considered one of the industry’s most influential gatherings, is “the future of space and aviation in the global economy”.
Both Clark and Hogan are urging US officials not to revise or renegotiate the Open Skies agreement.
Meanwhile, Qatar Airways’ CEO Akbar Al Baker has denied that his airline has received subsidies. Speaking at an arts conference in Doha, Al Baker said the money it receives from the state is in the form of legitimate equity.
“I think Mr Anderson (CEO of Delta) doesn’t know the difference between equity and subsidy. We never receive any subsidy,” Al Baker said.
“The state of Qatar is the owner of Qatar Airways and whatever funds are put into the airline is as equity, which is quite legitimate. The unfortunate thing is that because they are so inefficient they want to blame us - whilst we are very efficient - for their failures and drawbacks.
“The issue is that they cannot stand the progress the Gulf carriers are making.”
Al Baker, in defending the airline’s record when it comes to CO2 emissions, said Delta Air Lines flew ageing aircraft.
“I am delighted that Richard Anderson of Delta is not here. First of all, we don’t fly cr*p airplanes that are 35 years old. The Qatar Airways average fleet (age) is only fours years and one month,” said Al Baker.
“We have ultra-modern airplanes. We have invested, my country has invested, huge amounts to make sure we are the lowest CO2 contributor in the aviation industry.”