Berlin wants Emirates. Emirates wants to fly to Berlin. But German law prevents it…unless Emirates gives up another lucrative German route. Welcome to the politics of Emirates in Germany.
Michael Müller, the mayor of Berlin, is courting Emirates. He wants to see nonstop flights between Dubai and Germany’s most populous city. Emirates, having reviewed market conditions, believes it could successfully operate a daily service to the German capital.
But German law stands in the way.
Per the current bilateral air services agreement between Germany and the United Arab Emirates, Emirates is limited to operating to only four cities within Germany. Those four cities are currently:
Thus, to start service to Berlin is not as simple as filing paperwork…it would require giving up one of its routes above.
Noting how profitable its existing four German destinations are, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the CEO of Emirates, said he’s willing to start service to Germany only if properly “incentivized”. Speaking to Arabian Business, Al Maktoum said:
This issue has been going on for a long time. I think, for the Germans, sticking to the four points they are firm in that, that they don’t want to expand it. For us also we have invested a lot in those four points…
It is always like this, if you want me to go somewhere I should be given an incentive why to fly to a point. In many countries they do. If they want you to fly there they will give you an investment, I mean incentive, to fly.
Absent an incentive, Emirates is pushing Berlin to push the German government to relax the four city limit imposed on Emirates.
Lufthansa To Blame?
Müller blames Lufthansa for putting pressure on the government to block Emirates’s expansion while at the same time refusing to add its own longhaul service from Berlin. After Air Berlin’s demise, Lufthansa briefly started nonstop service between Berlin and New York JFK, but canceled it only months later.
Addressing the slot restrictions, a Lufthansa spokesperson told Arabian Business:
The bilateral air service agreement entitles UAE carriers to choose four destinations in Germany. For the time being Emirates has selected Frankfurt, Munich, Düsseldorf and Hamburg as its preferences. However, if Emirates gave up one of them, Berlin could immediately be integrated into its flight schedule.
That’s a question of company strategy. Air service agreements are supposed to ensure an ambitious level of connectivity as well as an international level playing field including a fair and balanced market access for all airlines involved.
That logic is a bit twisted when Emirates is willing to offer nonstop service to Germany’s largest city when Lufthansa refuses, forcing passengers to connect in Frankfurt if flying Lufthansa.
Emirates faces barriers to entry in many countries and is hardly unique in that regard. But with Germany one of its most profitable markets and Berlin underserved, time will tell if powerful lobbying from the Berlin Government and from Emirates may loosen up Germany’s Emirates slot restrictions.
image: Laurent ERRERA / Wikimedia Commons