Politics did not sway Emirates’ Rolls-Royce contract, president says

London // Emirates Airline president Tim Clark said the carrier’s decision to award Rolls-Royce a US$9.2 billion (Dh33.78bn) contract to build engines for 50 new Airbus A380 aircraft had nothing to do with US airlines’ campaign against their Arabian Gulf rivals.

“The contract was awarded on the basis of the performance of the engine and the cost. The political backdrop had no part in it at all,” Mr Clark said at the contract signing yesterday.

Emirates chose engines built jointly by US manufacturers General Electric and Pratt and Whitney for its first A380 aircraft 13 years ago.

But the airline’s decision to opt for engines from a British company has raised questions over whether the most established GCC carrier was using its buying power to hit back at corporate America.

“That never even crossed my mind,” said Mr Clark. “It was a fair fight between the Engine Alliance and Rolls-Royce, and Rolls-Royce showed more commitment to get the contract and had invested more in improving their technology.”

Mr Clark’s comments came as Emirates and Rolls-Royce signed what is described as the biggest non-defence-related contract between the UAE and a British company, building on deals worth $13.4bn between the UAE and Britain in 2013.

The Emirates chief said the airline would vigorously defend itself against charges that it was receiving unfair state subsidies that breach the Open Skies agreements between the United States and GCC countries.

He called the spat between the three biggest US carriers – Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and American Airlines – and the GCC carriers – Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways – a “ripple” that Emirates would easily overcome.

“We will disprove everything that has been said by them. We are an unsubsidised carrier and we always have been. We have no access to free fuel or cheap funding. So we will deal with that and put [those claims] to bed once and for all,” said Mr Clark.

However, he had to fly to Washington in the past month to talk to US officials about claims that GCC airlines have received more than $42bn in financial aid from their governments since 2004.

Mr Clark said he still had not been able to view the 55-page document in which many of the US airlines’ claims are made. He said US officials were welcome to visit Dubai to scrutinise Emirates and inspect its books if they did not trust its auditor, PWC.


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