EU Pilots Blame Gulf Airlines for Predatory Expansion Practices

The European Cockpit Association (ECA) launched a vigorous appeal to the EU Commission to take immediate action for stopping what they see as capacity-dumping practices of the Gulf Carriers and restore fair competition in aviation. Their step fully supports the coalition “Europeans for Fair Competition” (E4FC) to restoring a level playing field for European aviation curtailing the activities of state-aided Gulf airlines.

ECA President Dirk Polloczek  -  courtesy VC
ECA President Dirk Polloczek - courtesy VC

In their advance, the ECA refers to the massive capacity expansion exercised by Arabian carriers on many routes to the detriment of their European peers. This move is legitimate if based on transparent commercial conditions enabling European carriers to compete with their Gulf rivals on fair terms, reasons ECA. However, those conditions are not given, since the fully or partially state-run airlines from the United Arab Emirates and Qatar enjoy large-scale cost advantages guaranteed by their governments. They are benefitting from access to cheap ground infrastructure, fuel and unlimited sources of capital, which allows them growing their fleets at a breathtaking pace as a platform as cornerstone for their capacity-dumping policy with the primary objective to increasingly snatch away market shares from their commercially driven competitors. All this is claimed as being fact by the ECA.

Unlimited funds to finance continuous expansion
A ruinous policy harshly criticized by the ECA in their appeal to the EU Commission. “Everyone should be bound to play by the same rules,” demands ECA President Dirk Polloczek. His organization, representing 38,000 European pilots claims that over the past decade, the three Gulf airlines have collectively received €39 billion in unfair subsidies from their governments for taking away market shares in passenger and cargo transports from their EU competitors. This is shown in a recent in-depth investigation, the ECA holds. “It is therefore no surprise that these cash-rich airlines can afford to easily finance their excessive and detrimental growth strategy,” Polloczek criticizes.

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Urgent actions demanded to end passenger and cargo traffic distortions
A highly alarming signal, he finds, shown by traffic flows between Europe and Southeast Asia, entirely dominated by Gulf carriers. “All this comes directly at the expense of the European aviation and its employees, who are following strict state-aid and fair competition rules and who do not have access to unlimited funds.” In their release, the European Pilot Association demands that “Europe needs to take urgent action and stop this to safeguard the future of our industry and the employment it generates in Europe.”

Each abandoned route costs 600 jobs
The ECA paints a grim picture of European aviation matters should the EU politicians and the block’s national governments continue sitting on their hands. “600 European-based jobs are lost for every long-haul route abandoned as a result of the predatory expansion of a Gulf carrier,” says Philip von Schoeppenthau, ECA Secretary General. This accounts for passenger and cargo traffic alike. “The threat is real, it is happening now, and needs action quickly. We will work closely with national governments, the European Commission and other stakeholders to end this unprecedented and harmful market distortion.” Which steps his association intends taking in close coordination with the E4FC coalition to end the criticized traffic distortions or at least curb the Gulf carrier’s European expansion the pilots leave open in their appeal.
In the meantime, Etihad Chief James Hogan pleaded for expanding open skies treaties. At a meeting held in New York, he said that an open skies policy fosters competition, drives innovation and spurs growth. Currently, the Abu Dhabi-headquartered carrier services eight cities in North America, which doesn’t seem to be the end of the line.

Heiner Siegmund

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