UAE min slams gov't meddling in airline sector

Sheikh Nahyan says some national governments denying Gulf airlines "full access to their market"
UAE min slams gov't meddling in airline sector
HH Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research.
By Shane McGinley
Tue 16 Oct 2012 12:57 PM

A “healthy, prosperous” airline industry is one of the biggest forces for achieving world peace, but faces obstacles including interference by governments in the sector, the UAE’s Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research said at an aviation conference in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday.

“I declare that a healthy, prosperous world passenger airline industry is one of most potent forces in our quest for world peace,” HH Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Higher Education
and Scientific Research, said in a speech at the IATA World Passenger Symposium in Abu Dhabi.

“Your airlines have become even more important in bringing people, language, ideas and values together,” he told representatives from airlines around world.

However, Sheikh Nahyan hit out at interference by governments in bilateral aviation agreements as a potential threat to this.

“Intervention by governments is still all too common. Generally they tend to impede the industry's ability to manage demand and supply… For example, false beliefs about government subsidies to serve airlines in our region have caused some governments to deny those airlines full access to their market,” he added.

Dubai-based Emirates Airline has faced a long-running battle to secure more landing slots at airports including Stuttgart and Frankfurt. German carrier Lufthansa claims that Emirates receives government subsidies and therefore skews competition in the German market.

UAE airlines have also faced similar issues in Canada, where in 2010 both Emirates and Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways were refused additional landing slots at Canadian airports by the North American country's transport agency. The incident quickly escalated into a diplomatic spat between the two countries.

“Above all, such actions harm the interests of potential passengers who desire to travel to those countries. Such government interventions lack justification,” Sheikh Nahyan added, without mentioning any specific examples.

While Sheikh Nahyan said intervention in the area of safety and security was acceptable, he highlighted the EU Emissions Trading Scheme as an example of government interference which may have negative consequences. The scheme will force carriers to pay more based on the volume of carbon their aircraft emit while flying into and out of the European Union.

“Some states that have threatened to introduce national taxes on the pretext of environmental protection may be seen as unwarranted and may lead to retaliatory responses… We in the UAE that the environmental concerns should be fair and balanced,” he said.

Sheikh Nahyan is not the only public figure in the Gulf to have openly criticised the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. Earlier this year, Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker claimed the EU was using the scheme as a way “covering up” inefficiencies in how it manages its finances.

Al Baker labelled the scheme an indirect tax, stating that it would heavily penalise Gulf carriers that are rapidly expanding their fleets.

Authorities in countries including the US, Australia, Singapore, Canada, Brazil and Russia have also voiced their concerns over the scheme.

* The quotes in this article were initially incorrectly attributed to HH Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs, who was originally scheduled to make the keynote speech at the IATA Passenger Symposium 2012 in Abu Dhabi.

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