April 15, 2015
Etihad CEO warns against restrictive European practices
Europe is finding it difficult to stand back and do nothing as Etihad Airways makes increasing inroads into Europe, especially through equity investments in Air Serbia, Aer Lingus, Air Berlin and Alitalia. Such interests have seen two major European airlines, Air France-KLM and Lufthansa, object vehemently, complaining that Etihad is benefitting from interest-free government loans as well as cheap fuel. While Etihad deny they receive beneficial loan terms, they have been quick to attack European sentiment regarding the domineering behaviour of UAE airlines. Etihad’s CEO, James Hogan, met the European Union’s Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc early this week in an attempt to stress the benefits of Etihad’s operations to European consumers and economies.
“Etihad Airways is committed to Europe. But growing resistance to us from a handful of protectionist competitors could have unintended consequences well beyond limiting our development,” Hogan is quoted as saying in a statement released by Etihad Airways. “If our growth is curtailed or our investments in airlines are compromised, the real damage will be to Europe in lost jobs, lost flight connectivity, lost investment in local and national economies and lost consumer choice.” He continued. Etihad’s contributed US$1bn to the combined GDP of the 28 EU nations last year and supported more than 11,000 jobs there according to Hogan, while its purchases of European aircraft and equipment provided a further substantial contribution.
Currently UAE carriers can only fly to four German airports: Frankfurt, Munich, Hamburg and Düsseldorf, though last month a summer flight schedule allowing Air Berlin and Etihad to share some flights not covered by the agreement, such as Berlin-Abu Dhabi and Stuttgart-Abu Dhabi, was approved.