Way back in the 80s and 90s, when the freshly hatched Emirates airlines tended to get patronised by the airline establishment, a set of traffic treaties were negotiated or extended between HMG and the UAE in which British Airways was secured ‘beyond rights’ through Dubai to other cities in Asia and even Australia in return for reciprocal yet conditional rights to major as well as secondary cities in Great Britain.
It was rather like the you-can-fly-anywhere-but-Sydney deals Australia was happy to negotiate with starry eyed Middle East and Asia carriers in order to pander to demands for more international flights by the likes of Perth or Cairns tourism lobbyists while ensuring that the airlines Australians were comfortable with, such as Alitalia, Lufthansa, KLM and of course, world beating Qantas, had ex-colonial outposts to land at for refueling and the odd rich expatriate or diplomatic travel account customer to pick up or set down.
The evolution of those rights into something far more generous in line with the reality of growing trade ties with the Middle East, saw the interests of the Trade Department in Canberra rapidly overtake and sideline the protests from Qantas about ‘unfetted’ access to upstarts like Emirates and Gulf (which was to fail in this market) while the likes of European legacies took fright and fled the scene.
Back in the UK, no-one in Whitehall ever imagined, until it was too late, that the trinket of beyond rights to toy Middle East carriers to cities on the far side of the Atlantic mattered a damn, compared to the access of UK carriers to mysterious and exotic parts to the east of the Gulf of Arabia.
But that day has arrived. Emirates thrived beyond the wildest expectations of the European and UK legacies, and Dubai became a major maritime and aviation hub, connecting the Indian sub continent as well as the Middle and Far East including Australia and New Zealand, to working class centres like Manchester and Birmingham with well appointed airliners which legacy bound British Airways insisted on trying to serve via Heathrow, or Gatwick, or for the truly wicked, both Heathrow and Gatwick via an awesomely miserable coach connection.
Which is why the UK is today contemplating reports like this in the Travel Mole.
To be fair, the report does glide over more than a few bumps in the regulatory road to flights by A380s between Manchester and Miami or Birmingham and Boston, not to mention Manhattan. It will not be as easy as the report makes it sound, but as Emirates doing Milan-NYC has proved, such flights are far from impossible.
The UAE today has things that UK trade interests need, including rich customers, and the UK has things Emirates wouldn’t mind getting a slice of in return, such as those hopeless North Atlantic routings British Airways once thought could be left to the successors to Laker Airways, or maybe those funny chaps at Virgin Atlantic.
Meanwhile those who have wondered how Emirates could possibly employ the capacity of more than 100 A380s, more than 100 Boeing 777s, and some 70 forthcoming Airbus A350s, the answer is as hub busters (yet from the airline with the world’s first truly non-stop to almost anywhere hub) and as a means of leveraging international trade access to the Middle East and central Asia.