Luxembourg pilots join call for Mid East carrier curbs

The Luxembourg pilots’ association has joined a group calling for fair competition in European aviation, which they argue is "competing with the state-funded airlines of the Gulf region".
The Association Luxembourgeoise des Pilotes de Ligne (ALPL) said that it, together with other pilot associations and the European Cockpit Association, had become members of the Europeans for a Fair Competition coalition, dedicated “to restoring fair conditions for European aviation”.
In a statement, ALPL said: "In the past decade, the state-funded airlines of the United Arab Emirates and the emirate Qatar have massively expanded their capacity on routes, which were previously served by European airlines. The problem with this expansion is that these airlines, which are largely state-owned, are supported by state aid and benefit from access to cheaper (airport) infrastructure, fuel and capital.
"These practices, which are distorting the market, are disadvantageous not only for the European aviation industry but also damage the EU economy in general.
ALPL president Captain Darrell Myers said: “The same rules should apply to everyone,” citing a recently published study which claimed that major Persian Gulf carriers have received €39bn in government aid in the past ten years, allowing them to finance "aggressive and damaging growth strategies," added the pilots union.
He added: “What is alarming is that this is happening at the expense of European aviation and its employees, who are subject to very strict rules concerning aid and competition and which do not have access to unlimited financial means.”
Middle East Gulf carriers Qatar Airways, Emirates and Etihad have been approached for comment, although in the past they have vigorously denied previous accusations of state-subsidies made by US carriers in a bitter war of words.
A spokesperson for Emirates told Air Cargo News: “We support a constructive and open-minded approach to the EU-UAE aviation dialogue. The UAE has no concerns about discussing fair competition in international aviation, but views some attempts to artificially ‘level the playing field’ as calls for protectionist measures to curb Gulf carrier growth.  
“It is unfortunate that some EU Member States (namely France and Germany) use the dialogue as a reason to refuse to discuss increased market access with the UAE – increases in market access is a sovereign issue agreed bilaterally which cannot legitimately ‘be placed’ in Brussels.   
“Emirates offers consumers a choice of connecting over Dubai on one airline as opposed to flying through European hubs with connections on European carriers. Providing such choices is at the heart of Open Skies.”
ALPL general secretary Dirk Becker added that 600 jobs are lost for every route ceded by a European airline to one of the three big Gulf airlines, citing the recent expansion of Qatar Airways at Luxemburg airport.
Becker added: “This involves a real threat which won’t stop at Luxembourg and threatens the airlines of the grand duchy as the most recent reports on the expansion of the activities of Qatar Airways at Luxembourg airport show. It is happening now and we have to act now.”

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