By Shane McGinley
Emirates is restricted from flying to Berlin as it already operates to four German cities, the maximum currently allowed
Emirates airline should be offered some incentives by officials in Berlin if the German capital is serious about wanting the airline to start direct flights to city, the Dubai-based carrier’s chairman said in a media roundtable discussion at the Dubai Airshow.
Under the existing air services arrangement between Germany and the United Arab Emirates, Emirates is allowed to operate to any four cities in Germany. At present it currently operates to Frankfurt, Munich, Düsseldorf and Hamburg. Therefore, if the Dubai carrier wanted to operate direct routes to Berlin it would have to sacrifice one of its existing four successful routes.
Earlier this year, Michael Müller, Mayor of Berlin, told Arabian Business “the government of Berlin is in favour of direct flights to Dubai”.
However, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the carrier’s chairman and CEO, said the German capital needed to offer some kind of incentive if Emirates was to switch to flying to Berlin and abandon one of the four profitable routes it already operates under the current air services agreement with the German government.
“This issue has been going on for a long time. I think, for the Germans, sticking to the four points they are firm in that, that they don’t want to [expand] it. For us also we have invested a lot in those 4 points,” Sheikh Ahmed said in relation to a question from Arabian Business.
“It is always like this, if you want me to go somewhere I should be given an incentive why to fly to a point. In many countries they do. If they want you to fly there they will give you an investment, I mean incentive, to fly,” he said, adding that if Berlin officials are so keen on direct flights to Dubai they should “push their own government to agree something like that”.
This summer, the Mayor of Berlin called for the bilateral air service agreement between Germany and the UAE to be expanded to allow Emirates to operate direct flights to and from the German capital.
“Emirates has the traffic rights for four access points in Germany… In practical terms, this means a restricted access to Berlin, as Emirates would have to give up another German market in order to fly to Berlin. As the overall demand is growing, this would of course make no commercial sense. Therefore, the answer is yes, Emirates is restricted to expand their operations to Berlin,” Müller added when asked if felt Emirates was being restricted in its operations in Germany.
In an interview in 2011, Müller’s predecessor Harald Wolf told Arabian Business he believed the reason the bilateral air agreement between Germany and the UAE had not been expanded was due to heavy lobbying of the German federal government by the country's largest carrier Lufthansa, who did not want the fast-growing UAE carriers to get more landing slots in German cities.
“It is not our intent to formulate any accusations, but Lufthansa has clearly stated in the past that they do not want to operate long distance flights from Berlin, and rather focus on their hub operations in Frankfurt and Munich,” Müller said when asked by Arabian Business if he agreed with Wolf’s stance on the situation.
“Therefore, it is obvious that operations by other long distance carriers in Berlin are not in Lufthansa’s interest. In addition Lufthansa is openly demanding the limitation of traffic rights for UAE carriers,” he added.
When asked for a comment, a Lufthansa spokesperson issued the following statement: “The bilateral air service agreement entitles UAE carriers to choose four destinations in Germany. For the time being Emirates has selected Frankfurt, Munich, Düsseldorf and Hamburg as its preferences. However, if Emirates gave up one of them, Berlin could immediately be integrated into its flight schedule. That’s a question of company strategy. Air service agreements are supposed to ensure an ambitious level of connectivity as well as an international level playing field including a fair and balanced market access for all airlines involved.”