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The head of Jumeirah Group, one of the largest hoteliers in Dubai, has criticised governments for protecting national airlines at the expense of the rest of the travel industry.
Jumeirah Group president and CEO Gerald Lawless singled out Canada, which has prevented Emirati airlines from landing more than six flights per week into the North American country despite years of lobbying by Dubai-based airline Emirates Airline and the UAE national carrier Etihad.
“Governments around the world should stop supporting these so-called legacy airlines,” Lawless said. “We don’t need hotel rights to build a hotel in Toronto so why should our airlines need flight rights to fly to Toronto if that’s what they want to do if the airline meets all safety standards, so legacy airlines should not be supported anymore by their governments.
“The hotel industry depends on airlift to bolster its business; we don’t have airlift, we don’t have customers.”
Canada’s refusal to increase Emirati landing rights led to a breakdown in the diplomatic relationship two years ago, which only began to thaw last year.
Both countries imposed visa restrictions on each other’s citizens until the decision was reversed in February.
However, there is no sign of Canada increasing Emirati landing rights. The UAE also has suffered from Germany’s refusal to allow Emirates landing slots at Berlin’s new airport. Berlin Mayor Harald Wolf last year claimed the national carrier Lufthansa had lobbied the German government to deny Emirates’ request.
“The Berlin government was, and is, in favour to open the airport to Emirates and give them the possibilities to have direct flights,” Mayor Wolf said.
“But the difficulty is the federal government. They are very restrictive. They [the Federal Government] have had a very strong lobbying from Lufthansa not to strengthen Emirates.”
Bahrain also has been accused of propping up its national carrier, Gulf Air, at the expense of Bahrain Air, a privately run airline that went into voluntary liquidation in February blaming the government for demanding immediate payment on past government debts.
Bahrain Air CEO Russell Nuttall accused the government of favouring Gulf Air, its direct competitor.
Minister of Transportation Kamal Ahmed is a board member of the national carrier, which Nuttall said was a conflict of interest.