Emirates boss ‘shocked’ by Lufthansa-linked expansion obstacles

Emirates President Tim Clark has lashed out at Lufthansa as his own airline increases the number of flights between Vienna and Dubai.The Austrian government coalition of Social Democrats (SPÖ) and the People’s Party (ÖVP) granted Emirates another daily flight from Vienna International Airport (VIA or VIE) to Dubai International Airport (DXB) some days ago. The carrier is now allowed to offer two daily flights to the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) throughout this summer. Newspaper reports suggested that Lufthansa and its Austrian affiliate Austrian Airlines (AUA) tried to get the SPÖ-ÖVP to say no to their rival’s request.Now Clark admitted he was “shocked about what happened last week”. The British businessman, who became head of Emirates in 2003, said today (Fri): “We’ve always had an amicable relationship with the Austrian government. I wonder who’s behind (the recent developments).”Speaking to the Kurier newspaper, Clark added: “Lufthansa is obviously deeply worried about our presence. (…) Lufthansa makes an annual profit of almost one billion Euros and hires 4,000 new employees. It orders new planes and is a member of Star Alliance, one of the strongest alliances in the world.”The aviation industry manager called on the German company to “document their complaints and give us a chance to react.”Clark explained: “We don’t think about how we can overpower, let’s say, (Hong Kong-based carrier) Cathay Pacific. We just want to do our job. We aim to offer an excellent product and match the interests of our customers.”The Emirates chief made clear his airline wants three daily flights between VIA and DXB “in the coming years”.When asked how he justifies certain competition advantages as there are no labour unions and lower taxes in the UAE, Clark said: “You live in a beautiful country. That’s not fair either. But why do you blame me for the taxation rate, I’m an airline manager. We don’t complain if taxes for the German industry are lowered.”Emirates was founded in 1985. The company is one of the fastest-growing airlines in the world. It has more than 36,000 staff.Speaking about alleged lower labour expenditures his firm has compared to its competitors, Clark argued: “People in France work 35 hours a week, Germans work 37.5 hours. We do 42 weekly hours. Is it possible that Emirates has more productive staff than Lufthansa? May it be that our planes have a higher load factor and that we have the more efficient network? Is it possible that we simply work a bit harder?”Clark dismissed speculations that Emirates approached outgoing Lufthansa manager Thierry Antinori. The Frenchman surprisingly announced earlier this week that he decided not to become new AUA boss. Antinori was set to take over at the firm – which was acquired by Lufthansa in 2009 – today.”We didn’t make him an offer, but maybe we should have done so. (His departure) means a great loss to AUA. He was one of Lufthansa’s strongest assets,” the Emirates president said about Antinori.Meanwhile, FlyNiki chief Niki Lauda has branded Lufthansa’s alleged interference in talks between the Austrian government and Emirates as “one of the most unfair occurrences I have ever experienced.”Lauda previously said: “Austria is not a sheltered workshop. What is happening is breaching EU (European Union) laws and reminds me of occurrences in the deepest Eastern Bloc.”AUA co-chief Peter Malanik argued money would not play a role in the expansion of Emirates since it is owned by the state. “(This is) not a match of airline against airline – it’s a game between a state and AUA,” he said.Lauda, whose airline cooperates with Air Berlin and Emirates, said Malanik’s statements were “incredibly unqualified”. He added: “Austria must allow free competition in the aviation industry.”