Open-skies policy will survive spat between US and UAE, Emirates official says

Emirates is confident that the open-skies policy between the UAE and the United States governments will remain in place despite a spat with US carriers.

The North American carriers Delta, United and American Airlines have alleged that the Arabian Gulf airlines have been the beneficiaries of unfair government subsidies and other financial incentives that are in breach of open skies, and have asked the US government to reverse the policy.

Last month, the US state, commerce and transportation departments asked the legacy carriers to submit comments for review.

“They haven’t yet approached the government officially. We haven’t got an official statement from their government, once we get something from the government we will respond,” said Sheikh Majid Al Mualla, the divisional senior vice president for commercial operations at Emirates, at an event to mark the opening of the Arabian Travel Market yesterday. “But open skies is signed between the governments and not with Emirates, and we will be going ahead with our expansion in the States.”

The first open skies agreement between the UAE and the US was signed in 1999.

In March, Emirates said it would add Orlando in Florida, to its network from September with a daily flight. He declined to identify other potential US destinations but said the airline views the Americas besides India and China as potential growth areas.

Open-skies policy calls for a free market environment for the aviation industry with little government intervention.

“We are transparent, the accusations are wrong, and we have mentioned that we can go through these with them point by point,” Mr Al Mualla said.

Emirates, which expects to carry 70 million passengers a year by 2020, will announce its financial results on Thursday. During the 2013-14 financial year, it carried 44.5 million passengers.

The carrier will take handover of 27 aircraft, a mix of Boeing 777 and A380 aircraft, up to March next year. Currently, Emirates has 232 aircraft in its fleet.

It is also designing a private suite for passengers in first class that will be launched in the next few years.

The national carrier Etihad Airways launched the Residence with a living room, separate bedroom and en suite bathroom for its first-class passengers last year.

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