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Thu 31 May 2018 12:12 PM

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Controversy swirls in Mexico over potential Emirates flight from Spain

Mexico's tourism minister said that an Emirates 'fifth freedom' flight route from Barcelona would boost tourist numbers from the MENA region and India

Controversy swirls in Mexico over potential Emirates flight from Spain

Mexican airline Aeromexico is looking into ways to legally prevent Emirates from launching a flight to Mexico from Barcelona, even as the country’s tourism minister welcomed the move as a potential way to increase visitor numbers.

According to local media outlets, Aeromexico CEO Andres Conesa said this week that the Mexican airline is examining a number of legal options to challenge any Emirates fifth freedom flight to Mexico through Barcelona.

Fifth freedom rights allow an airline to fly between two foreign countries so long as the flight originates or ends in the airline’s home country.

“We are going to look at all the legal mechanisms that are within our reach,” Conesa told local media. 

“We are going to give battle. This [issue] could affect connectivity. If they [Emirates] sell subsidised tickets, they will force us out of the market.

“If they force us out and we aren’t competitive with our flights to Europe, we will have to reduce our offerings,” he added.

Milenio, one of Mexico’s most prominent television broadcasters, also quoted Conesa as saying that allowing Emirates to operate a flight from Barcelona to Mexico would put local jobs at risk.

On May 16, Aeromexico announced that it was scrapping plans for its own Barcelona-Mexico flights, citing the “unfair” approval of a fifth freedom flight for Emirates by Spanish authorities in March.

Emirates declined to comment on the matter when contacted by Arabian Business.

A boon for tourism

In a recent interview with El Economista, a prominent Mexican business magazine, Mexican tourism minister Enrique de la Madrid said the flight, which he expects to begin in October or November, would pave the way for a significant increase in the number of tourists visiting the country from the Middle East and India, as well as a boost in foreign investment.

“The Mexican government is fulfilling commitments made during state visits made to the UAE previously,” he said. “The government wants to improve the commercial ties between our countries, including tourism, because it can be potentially beneficial.

“Aerial operations began with cargo, and now we are being followed up with passengers,” he noted, estimating that as many as 150,000 passengers could travel on the route in its first year, primarily from the Middle East and India.

He added that he does not believe that will any significant influx of European visitors due to the route.

In his remarks, De la Madrid downplayed Aeromexico’s concerns and the impact it would have on their business.  

“We can’t say no to a new opportunity for connectivity to the country,” he said. “If a Barcelona-Mexico service is required, one must look to see who can provide it. Aeromexico probably won’t open this route, but it can open another or increase frequency some place.

“It’s outstanding that the country can benefit double from this,” he added. “We will have a route from Barcelona, and it’s good news for our tourism.”

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