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EU should consider economic benefits of increased Gulf travel, says UAE official

A senior UAE official has opined that European nations should take a good look at the wide range of economic benefits of increased Gulf travel as opposed to training its focus on the fate of national airlines.

The senior UAE official made the remarks right before open skies negotiations begin with the European Union.

National flag carriers such as Lufthansa of Germany expressed its concern that it would lose business to Gulf carriers under such an arrangement that would govern traffic rights and issues concerning safety, security, and environmental cooperation.

The UAE’s envoy to Germany, Ali al-Ahmed, expressed hope that it could settle on an agreement with the EU on an open skies pact. He added that it had also requested for permission to add Berlin and Stuttgart to the four German cities it already serves. These are Hamburg, Duesseldorf, Munich and Frankfurt.

As it is, the EU already has open skies pacts with the United States, Canada, Israel and others. Its talks with Qatar have been going on now for 18 months and is showing steady progress.

The economic bloc also has a mandate to discuss the matter with the UAE, but is waiting for clarification on specific issues before officially initiating negotiations, said a source within the EU.

“It is short-sighted not to look at the big picture, the impact on hotels, restaurants, culture,” the former senior telecommunications executive remarked.

“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 purchaser of Airbus (AIR.PA) A380 airplanes, which supported jobs in Hamburg and in other locales, and had helped fight off a freeze in A380 production, al-Ahmed disclosed, adding that travelers from the Gulf also made up a large number of tourists in Bavaria.

Al-Ahmed asked for hotels, tourist businesses and other sectors to help push for increased Gulf traffic into and out of Europe as it is unreasonable to compromise economic gains for the protection of national carriers.

“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,” al-Ahmed said.

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