March 2, 2018 / 7:49 PM / 21 days ago

UAE talks up mutual travel benefits before EU-Gulf open skies talks

BERLIN (Reuters) - European countries should look at the broader economic benefits of increased Gulf travel rather than focusing on the fate of national airlines, a senior UAE official said ahead of open skies negotiations with the European Union.

Some national carriers like Germany’s Lufthansa (LHAG.DE) are concerned about losing business to Gulf rivals under a deal, which would govern traffic rights, as well as issues such as safety, security, and environmental cooperation.

The UAE hoped to reach agreement with the EU on an open skies agreement, Ali al-Ahmed, its envoy to Germany told reporters, adding that it had also asked for permission to add Berlin and Stuttgart to the four German cities it already serves - Hamburg, Duesseldorf, Munich and Frankfurt.

The EU already has open skies agreements with the United States, Canada, Israel and others. Its negotiations with Qatar have been underway for 18 months and are moving forward.

The economic bloc also has a mandate to negotiate with UAE, but is waiting for it to clarify certain matters before formally launching negotiations, an EU source said.

“It is short-sighted not to look at the big picture, the impact on hotels, restaurants, culture,” the former senior telecommunications executive said. “For national carriers to come and say, this is not a fair competition, that is really not looking at the greater good for the economy.”

    Emirates Airline was by far the biggest buyer of Airbus (AIR.PA) A380 airplanes, which secured jobs in Hamburg and elsewhere, and had helped stave off a halt in A380 production, al-Ahmed said, adding that travellers from the Gulf also accounted for a large number of tourists in Bavaria.

    He urged hotels, tourist businesses and others to help advocate for increased Gulf traffic into and out of Europe as it made no sense to sacrifice the broader economic gains just to protect national carriers, he said.

    “At the end of the day, it is about customer’s experience and they should be able to decide who do they want to fly with.”

    Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Alexander Smith

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