Emirates Air chief dismisses flight subsidy claims as 'a waste of time'

Emirates Air chief dismisses flight subsidy claims as 'a waste of time'

The CEO of Emirates Airlines said allegations from U.S. airlines that it and other Middle Eastern carriers have received subsidies from its government owners are "a waste of time." 

Unions that represent employees of the largest U.S. airlines, known collectively as the Big Three, have alleged Emirates and other Middle Eastern airlines like Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways have received more than $42 billion in subsidies since 2004.

Emirates Emirates CEO Tim Clark said in an interview with CNBC that the subsidy accusations are false. 

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"I don't think we could have been more clear, more transparent, evidenced in any number of ways to show that this company is not subsidized in any way shape or form by the Dubai government," he said. 

"We've made that clear with evidence, we've shown it in multiple figures, submissions etc," he continued. "Now for someone to keep banging on that particular drum is for me a complete waste of time." 

The major U.S. airlines — Delta, United and American — have sought to convince regulators that the alleged payments to their Middle Eastern competitors violate the spirit of the Open Skies agreements between the U.S. and the governments of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, which own the airlines. 

They want the Obama administration to launch a review of the claims with the Middle Eastern governments, which would involve a delicate set of negotiations that critics said would upset other areas of foreign relations.

"The heavily subsidized Gulf carriers don't play by the rules, flood the marketplace and undermine fair competition. Until the United Arab Emirates and Qatar stop subsidizing their state-owned airlines in violation of Open Skies policies, governments around the world will rightly be reluctant to give them additional access to their markets," Partnership for Open and Fair Skies spokeswoman Jill Zuckman said in a statement. 

"It's time for the Obama administration to wake up to this blatant violation of its bilateral agreements and request consultations with the UAE and Qatar. American jobs depend upon it.”

Emirates' Clark said in his interview with CNBC that the domestic airline push for an intervention into international flight agreements could impact air service to other nations outside of the Middle East. 

"To shut down, or selectively reduce open skies, what ever you think, or what ever you would like to do, it has unintended consequences," he said. 

"For instance, if in China today, the US and China decided that because the U.S. carriers have the lion's share of transpacific routes, the Chinese really don't get much, if the Chinese now say well actually we are not going to limit the number of carriers that you can actually fly into the U.S., only two carriers may fly, because you are changing the rules about Open Skies, you're changing your whole approach to air access," he continued. "That could mean one of the three American carriers loses its right to fly to China, now these are the unintended consequences, now if you go down this path do not expect it to be smooth and plain sailing, because it certainly won't be, there are too many risks there." 

Clark added that described himself as a "multi-lateralist" when it comes to Open Skies agreements. 

"I am a liberalist, I certainly believe that economies can only grow when you remove restrictions, not just in the aviation side, but in every other business element of a GDP," he said.