By Ivan Gale www.thenational.ae
Emirates Airline will “let some time pass” before it renews its lobbying efforts for more flights to Canada after the re-election of Stephen Harper, the prime minister, and his conservative government.
For the past five years the UAE civil aviation ministry and Emirates Airline have been at loggerheads with the Harper government over more air rights to the nation, a member of the Group of 8 major economies. Canada has steadfastly refused to allow the airline more than three flights a week to protect Air Canada, which relies heavily on international traffic to south Asia and the Middle East in competition with UAE airlines.
In a potential setback for Emirates’ expansion plans, Canada’s conservatives gained seats this month and secured another fixed four-year term of uninterrupted government.
“There is not doubt that when the time is right, we will go and have some quiet conversations with the Canadian government and continue to make our case,” Andrew Parker, a senior vice president of international affairs at Emirates, said this month. “We respect the ‘umpire’s decision’ and I think we are just of the view that we are very comfortable letting some time pass.”
The airline’s success in gaining increasingly higher passenger and freight volumes in recent years has led it to become the target of opposition from airlines including Air Canada and Germany’s Lufthansa, both founding members of the Star Alliance that competes with UAE carriers on key routes. These airlines have lobbied their governments to block further requests from UAE airlines for more landing slots and greater flight frequency.
Last week, a German newspaper also reported Emirates was making little progress in expanding its presence to the German cities of Berlin and Stuttgart, which it has been seeking since 2004. Emirates said it was “hopeful that our long-standing request will receive German government support”.
Recently, the UAE scored a key victory when it signed an expanded agreement with France to allow Emirates and Etihad Airways to fly more weekly services to Paris and several provincial capitals.
Mr Parker said countries saw the value of trade and were gradually opening their markets. “Despite the occasional flare-ups and the occasional challenges that we have, which Canada is perhaps the most iconic, the world is liberalising,” he said.