Sheikh Ahmed: Emirates still denied access to 'many cities'

Emirates chairman says national carriers in some countries were very influential in blocking them access

Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Emirates’ chairman and CEO.

There are “many cities” around the world Emirates airline would like to operate direct flights to but faces opposition from the local government or the country’s national carrier, according to the Dubai airline’s chairman.

“Certain national carriers are very influential or they influence their government’s decision. I think it should be very clear when it comes to the country decision how [the air space] is open or not,” Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Emirates’ chairman and CEO, told reporters during a media roundtable at the Dubai Airshow last week.

“Imagine if I would say today that our policy in Dubai is to remain an open sky policy and here we have the national carrier pushing me no, no don’t do it. I would always look at what is in the best interests of the country than an individual carrier,” he added.

One route where the Dubai carrier has managed to overcome opposition is its upcoming flights to Mexico City, which will start operations from December 9. Despite support from Mexico’s Civil Aviation Authority and the country’s tourism officials, the decision has faced legal objections from local carrier Aeromexico and the Mexican pilots union.

“That was a tough one. I mean the Mexicans they’ve been after us for the last five years. They’re very keen,” Sheikh Ahmed said.

The Dubai carrier also faced objections in Nigeria during the summer when the chairman of the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) complained that the Nigerian government should restrict Emirates’ access to the country in order to protect national carrier Air Peace, which had started direct flights to the UAE in July.

When asked if there were any locations he would like to fly to but they were currently denied access he said: “You will find that many cities want to do [point-to-point]… I don’t want to go into that or for me to disclose such information but sometimes we expect something like this.”

However, he said such obstacles do not influence his decision when placing plane orders as deliveries of aircraft have to be planned for the long-term and he is always optimistic the airline can overcome any existing obstacles to launching new routes.

“I cannot really wait to take certain decisions when it comes to buy aircraft [until] I get that approval to do it, then it would be too late for me. So I have to take my calculated risk,” he said.

At Dubai Airshow last week Emirates committed to buy 30 Boeing 787s worth $8.8 billion at list prices, together with 126 larger 777Xs. It also confirmed 50 Airbus A350-900 widebody aircraft in a deal worth $16 billion, with delivery to begin in May 2023.

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