Exclusive: Emirates Group CEO Says Negotiations with US Are Ongoing

Exclusive: Emirates Group CEO Says Negotiations with US Are Ongoing

Saturday, 14 April, 2018 - 08:45
Emirates Group CEO Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum
Dubai- Jocelyn Elia
“We hope that the day will come when we will be able to conduct other flights onboard the largest giant to Lebanon,” said Emirates Group CEO Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum on the one-off Emirates Airbus A380 flight from Dubai to Lebanon.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat from his office at the Emirates Building, which overlooks the Dubai airport runway, the big shot CEO addressed many files, highlighting the first landing made by the world’s largest passenger Airbus, A380, at Beirut's international airport.

The trip was organized “to mark the 27th anniversary of the Emirates' launch of services to Beirut.”

To that effect, the success of this trip proved the readiness of Beirut’s Rafic Hariri International Airport to receive the double-deck, wide-body, four-engine jet airliner.

“Emirates sees the A380 as the future, and the UAE now has 150 double-decker aircraft that fly long distances to places like Sao Paulo, Australia and the United States, Kuwait and Jeddah,” Al Maktoum explained on the Emirates Airline owning the largest number of A380s.

The UAE airliner also recently made an additional order, increasing its flock to ensure that the aircraft’s production continues into 2030.

He pointed out that “the reason for such an investment in this type of aircraft is driven by supply and demand.”

The UAE believes that there has been an increased demand for these flights by its clients since it first flew the Airbus ten years ago.

Al Maktoum, also the president of the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, went on saying that the Dubai-based Emirates airline has undergone significant change over the last 30 years.

“Not only in terms of improving the seat size and capacity, but also in terms of flying hours—going from a former peak of 8 hours to 18 hours of non-stop flights.”

The CEO also did not rule out the airliner relocating to Dubai's recently opened Al Maktoum International Airport.

However, the move will not be made for another eight years, because the current Dubai International Airport has not yet reached its maximum capacity.

Dubbed the world’s busiest airport, the Dubai International Airport received 88 million and 200,000 passengers last year alone.

It is expected for passenger traffic to hit 119 million passengers.

Al Maktoum also described the recent approval earned for the company's flights to Mexico via Madrid as an “achievement under the umbrella of the Open Skies Agreement.”

Emirates flies to 159 destinations worldwide and is opting for fresh landing spots, such as Chile in July, and increasing the number of flights to London.

While preparations are underway for UAE’s Expo 2020, Emirates Airline is aiming to ensure that as many passengers as possible can reach Dubai to participate in the universal exposition.

“There are many programs we are working on now,” said Al Maktoum.

Addressing rising complications caused by new US regulations imposed on Gulf airlines, including reducing the number of flights at some airports and preventing passengers from carrying electronic devices on board, Al Maktoum said: “negotiations are currently underway with the US authorities.”

Pointing out that his company, which senses “a kind of bias directed against it,” seeks to reach an agreement.

“The UAE is implementing the Open Skies Act and its airports are receiving four US airlines without any restrictions,” he elaborated.

“We are doing everything we can to reduce the burden on passengers.”

As for other obstacles faced by the airliner, Al Maktoum says that the carrier “like any other service provider suffers from high and unstable oil prices-- which in turn affects passengers as ticket prices hike.”

He added that “oil is not the only problem, but also the dollar rate spike, because the company's transactions are dealt in dollars.”

The airliner believed the AED one billion loss last year was due to currency fluctuations.

More so, the Emirates airliner suffered “security crises in some areas-- buying planes is very expensive, and civil aviation is affected by geopolitical issues.”

“But airlines have to adapt to the situation,” explained Al Maktoum.

He also pointed out that “competition between airlines is large, and therefore it is necessary to provide additional services that interest all travelers.”

The company recently introduced seat selection services and enabled economic class travelers to visit business class lounges at the airport.

“Competition is very beneficial because it contributes to improving services.”

Flydubai and the Emirates are both state-owned airliners.

Flydubai, established 10 years ago, has proved successful over the years.

“But the competition between the two carriers is ultimately in the interest of the traveler-- good cooperation between them is also fruitful,” said Al Maktoum.

Adding stations reached by flydubai to the stations reached by Emirates, the total number for the latter increases from 159 to 200 stations.

“Some stations are covered by flydubai only and vice versa,” explained Al Maktoum.

“We do not know what the future holds, but the company must adapt to any situation according to plan and expand the number of stations, allocate budgets of over 100 billion dollars for modern aircraft applications, and revamp the fleet constantly,” he said.

He reaffirmed the carrier’s desire to increase the number of flights and to expand further into South and Central America.

Concluding his interview, Al Maktoum stressed on the Emirates seeking to go where it hasn't gone yet and to open station in cities not yet reached by the UAE carrier.

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