Tim Clark, president and CEO of Emirates, and No 1 customer for big Airbuses and Boeings

Opinion

Emirates has handed US authorities a massively documented rebuttal of claims by America’s three largest airlines that it is unfairly competing with them, and that as a consequence, it should be locked down by restrictions on its access to key air travel markets.

The document, variously quoted as being 210 or 388 pages in size by Flightglobal and the Wall Street Journal respectively is now available online. To paraphrase a number of interviews by Emirates president and CEO Tim Clark, the US3 wants the Middle East or ME3 dead, even if they can’t be bothered actually flying there, and it had no intention of co-operating with their wishes!

Clark went to the heart of the matter early, and the document now backs up each element of his rebuttals

American, Delta and United on one hand, the US3, want to stop Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways, the ME3,  in their tracks. Quite possibly because two of them, Etihad and Qatar Airways, are buying into European and UK carriers, thus adding to their capacity to win trans Atlantic business.

Now the executive and administrative branches of the US Government have the factual bases on which Emirates rejects the US3 assertions, in a dispute that could undermine free trade agreements not just those related to traffic rights.

The arguments of ‘unfairness’ and subsidies put forward by the US majors (and some EU carriers) has been echoed to some extent in Australia not by Qantas (associated with Emirates) or Virgin Australia (part owned by Etihad) but by their pilot and engineering associations.

But how many people will actually read the Emirates document? It is reasonable to note that it is highly unlikely in some quarters that a case is going to be made based on a dispassionate study of the figures and policy settings relating to the US3 or ME3.  Prejudice, fear, and inarticulate statements seem to have been the headline grabbers in this issue.

A desire to cut the world’s largest operator of A380s and 777s down to size seems to exceed any consideration of the increased economic benefits of more diverse sources of tourism and business opportunities. The counter proposition, that cutting back foreign carriers like Emirates (or by extension China Southern or Singapore Airlines) would see Qantas and Virgin Australia expand and take on all that activity, is fanciful.

The notion that the boards of Qantas or Virgin Australia are poised to aggressively and enthusiastically replace the growth brought about by the ME3, or who knows, perhaps even the US3, on Australia routes, and actually plan for long term growth, is contrary to the short term, fast buck fixations of listed enterprises in this country.

Boards and managements in Australia don’t go to the market saying “We have a vision.” They go to it saying “We have profits and a better share price”, or else.

Whether this is a good thing or not is a question that far exceeds the interests of airlines in global economic or trade affairs. Trying to change the world to suit the large carriers of the US, or Europe, or the Middle East, comes with massive risks.

Among the early stories about the Emirates document are overviews from Air Transport World, and Flightglobal.

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