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Sun 13 Nov 2005 04:00 AM

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Emirates slams ‘anti-competitive’ Qantas

A TOP Emirates executive last week reignited the long-running feud between the Dubai-based carrier and Australian airline Qantas.

A TOP Emirates executive last week reignited the long-running feud between the Dubai-based carrier and Australian airline Qantas.

Maurice Flanagan, the vice-chairman and group president of Emirates, accused Qantas of being “one of the world’s most anti-competitive airlines” after the Sydney-based carrier objected strongly to Emirates’ bid to double its flights to Australia to 84 a week from 42.

Qantas chairwoman Margaret Jackson claims Emirates already has an unfair advantage over the Australian airline because it is government owned and its chairman is part of Dubai’s ruling family and head of the emirate’s civil aviation authority.

“To suggest that Emirates is competing on similar terms as commercially-run airlines like Qantas is fiction,” said Jackson. “As Qantas has observed before, life must be very simple when the airline, government and airport interests are all controlled by the same people,” she added.

However, Flanagan likened Qantas’ stand to its opposition over Singapore Airlines’ bid for access to the lucrative trans-Pacific route between Australia and the USA.

“Lately Qantas has tried to stop, at all costs, competition on one of the world’s most protected routes — Australia to the US — and now they want to stop further competition on arguably Australia’s most important routes to greater Europe, the Middle East and Africa,” said Flanagan. “Their calls for protection belong in another era. Qantas needs to accept that government protection is the most powerful subsidy of them all,” he added.

Flanagan said that Qantas faced medium-level competition on only one of its routes, to London Heathrow, and that as a result prices on the route were competitive.

“Everywhere else there is evidence Qantas is one of the world’s most anti-competitive airlines and customers are paying higher prices as a result,” said Flanagan. “When Qantas argues against competition, they are arguing for higher prices. It's time they were challenged,” he added.

Australia is Emirates’ third most profitable market after Dubai and Britain. The airline’s request for more flights comes as the Australian government reviews its overall transport policy. The result of the review, which is expected to see greater competition on routes to and from Australia, is likely to be released before the end of the year.

In another swipe at Emirates, Jackson said Qantas and other listed airlines would be more profitable and be able to invest more if they had the same “government-sponsored” benefits as the UAE flag-carrier. “No-one can be in any doubt that Emirates’ remarkable growth reflects the aggressive and coordinated strategies of its owners, the government of Dubai, to build a world-class hub to grow tourism and business,” she said.

In April, Emirates reported a profit of US$637 million for the year ending March 31, 2005, but expects higher fuel prices will have an impact on the 2006 result. By comparison, Qantas reported a profit in August of US$486 million for the year to June 30.

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