PHOTO: An Emirates A380 in flight. (photo via Flickr/Roderick Elme)
While America’s big three airlines continue to hammer President Trump about ‘flagrant violations’ by Middle Eastern airlines with respect to the Open Skies agreement, rumors are circulating that Emirates and rival Etihad are considering a merger.
Although the airlines are fierce competitors, both jockeying for dominance in the Middle East, German news site Handelsblatt Global is reporting that the ruling families from the United Arab Emirates have had private discussions about possibly merging the two airlines.
Those rumors are “nonsense,” says Emirates president Tim Clark, speaking at the Bloomberg Berlin Forum.
Clark, did, however, indicate that Emirates is facing a “gathering storm,” according to a story at Bloomberg, as low-cost carriers compete for a larger share of long-haul routes.
“For a long time people thought low-cost long-haul wasn’t economically possible,” said Clark at the forum. “I didn’t believe it to be the case. Now aircraft makers are producing aircraft that can go for far longer quite cheaply, and it’s up to us to recognize that, and look at how we adapt.”
Even short-haul, low-cost carriers are adding to the threat, said Clark, as they ink partnership agreements with established long-haul carriers. Ryanair, for example, has announced plans to provide local routes for Norwegian.
World politics are also causing new challenges for global airlines. According to Clark, after President Trump signed his January executive order banning travel from seven Muslim-majority nations, the pace of bookings for Emirates declined by 35 percent.
As Emirates looks forward, the airline is beginning to eye new, short-haul routes throughout the Middle East, using smaller, more fuel-efficient planes.
“Our business model was set in the late 1980s when access was denied to us by many places in the region.”