Etihad Airways chief James Hogan has met with Europe's Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc to highlight the benefits which the airline delivers to European consumers amid growing resistance from to its growth from rival carriers.
Hogan, president and CEO of Etihad, said he outlined the multi-billion euro contribution which the airline makes to European economies at the meeting, and reinforced the risks associated with rising protectionist sentiment.
The meeting comes amid criticism of Etihad from the likes of Lufthansa, Europe's largest airline group, which said last month that the Abu Dhabi carrier should “respect” European laws and engage in more due diligence in order to avoid clashing with the EU in relation to its purchase of equity stakes in European airlines.
The European Commission in April 2014 launched an investigation into Etihad’s investments in European airlines as part of a wider examination into whether foreign ownership of European airlines complies with EU airline licensing rules.
In a statement following his meeting with Bulc, Hogan said any moves to impede foreign carrier access and limit competition would not just damage Etihad and its European partners, but would also reverberate throughout the air transport industry, and potentially undermine international confidence in Europe's commitment to global trade and investment.
He said research conducted by Oxford Economics had verified that in 2014, Etihad's core operations in the European Union contributed a total of $1 billion to the combined GDP of the 28 EU member nations and supported more than 11,000 jobs.
Additionally, the airline's 2014 capital spending on aircraft and other aviation equipment contributed $2.6 billion to the EU28 GDP, and supported more than 28,100 jobs.
Additional economic benefits were also calculated based on passenger and freight flows as a result of expanded flight connectivity. In 2014, connectivity benefits to the EU28 GDP were estimated at $1.3 billion, while the amount for the past decade was $5 billion.
Hogan said: "Etihad Airways is not just another foreign airline flying to Europe to poach local traffic. We are a sophisticated partner to and investor in Europe for long-term mutual benefit, contributing billions of euros every year to EU and non-EU economies, supporting tens of thousands of jobs and both maintaining and expanding choice for air travellers to and from Europe.
"Through our own flights, our 21 European codeshare partnerships and our minority investments in five European airlines, we are adding value to Europe in a way that no other foreign airline is."
He added: "Etihad Airways is committed to Europe. But growing resistance to us from a handful of protectionist competitors could have unintended consequences well beyond limiting our development.
"If our growth is curtailed or our investments in airlines are compromised, the real damage will be to Europe in lost jobs, lost flight connectivity, lost investment in local and national economies and lost consumer choice."
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