Lufthansa seeks to clip Emirates’ wings in Germany, Berlin Mayor says


By Shane McGingley

Lufthansa, Germany’s national carrier, is lobbying its government to deny Dubai’s Emirates Airline’s request for landing slots when Berlin’s new airport opens in 2012, a city’s politician has said.

Emirates Airlines chief executive officer Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum. The carrier has requested direct flights to Berlin since 2004
Emirates Airlines chief executive officer Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum. The carrier has requested direct flights to Berlin since 2004

The German airline is pushing the federal government to refuse Emirates direct flights to the capital through Berlin-Brandenburg Airport, said Harald Wolf, Berlin’s Mayor and Senator for Economics, Labour and Women’s Issues.

“The Berlin government was, and is, in favour to open the airport to Emirates and give them the possibilities to have direct flights,” Mayor Wolf said from his office in the German city.

“But the difficulty is the federal government. They are very restrictive. They [the Federal Government] have had a very strong lobbying from Lufthansa not to strengthen Emirates.”

Emirates currently flies to Frankfurt, Munich and Dusseldorf, but has been asking for direct flights to Berlin and Stuttgart since 2004.

Mayor Wolf said the federal government was likely to force the Dubai carrier to sacrifice some of its existing landing rights in order to gain a direct route to Berlin.

“If they want to fly from Berlin they can give up Stuttgart or Hamburg but they will they will not give them another additional right,” he said.

A spokesperson for Lufthansa was not immediately available for comment.

Lufthansa is one of a number of European carriers, including Air France KLM and British Airways, to call for curbs on the expansion of Gulf carriers on long-haul routes.

The carriers claim Gulf airline use unfair subsidies to finance aircraft deals and to take market share from existing airlines.

A number of US and European airlines are impacted by a ‘home market rule,’ which states that countries where Boeing and Airbus build aircraft cannot use export credit agencies to help their carriers buy passenger airliners.

The rule, which impacts carriers in the US, UK and France, among others, is seen as offering an unfair advantage to Gulf carriers unaffected by the law.

A spokesperson for Emirates said it was ‘hopeful’ that Berlin’s federal government would support its request for fresh landing slots at the new airport.

“Emirates’ services to Berlin and Stuttgart, both of which remain underserviced in terms of scheduled intercontinental routes, would benefit trade, investment, tourism and employment,” the airline said in an emailed statement.

“We are hopeful that our long-standing request will receive German government support. We have had discussions with the relevant officials on this matter, and look forward to further dialogue.”

Emirates has faced similar issues in Canada. Last November, Ottawa’s transport agency declined to give UAE carriers Etihad and Emirates additional landing rights, despite years of requests.

Emirates’ vice president Maurice Flanagan told Arabian Business he believed the refusal was fuelled by opposition from Lufthansa.

“They are targeting Emirates, being egged on by Lufthansa… It is purely the protection of Air Canada,” Flanagan said.