UAE-Canada row over landing rights

October 13th, 2010 - 2:38 pm ICT by IANS  

By Gurmukh Singh
Toronto, Oct 13 (IANS) The United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) plans to expand Etihad and Emirates global operations have resulted in a diplomatic row with Ottawa, with the Gulf nation deciding to shut a Canadian base for denial of more landing rights in Canada to its carriers.

The two UAE airlines operate six flights a week from Dubai and Abu Dhabi to Toronto.

With 27,000 Canadians - mostly those who have acquired Canadian citizenship but still work there - living in the UAE, the emirates government has been demanding more landing rights in Canada.

But Air Canada, the country’s national carrier, opposed additional landing rights on the grounds that not many people fly from the UAE to Canada. UAE carriers are also taking Canadians to other places, while making stopovers in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, Air Canada alleged.

Since Canada has been using its Camp Mirage military base near Dubai as a staging ground for seven years for its troops in Afghanistan, the UAE has sought more flights as well as landing rights in Calgary and Vancouver for its two carriers.

Before the Gulf nation shuts the Canadian base next month, it closed its airspace to a plane carrying the Canadian defence minister and other top officials Monday. Defence minister Peter MacKay, veterans affairs minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn and armed forces chief Walter Natynczyk were their way back from Afghanistan to Europe.

Supporting their government’s decision on landing rights, the Canadian media said Tuesday that Emirates Airlines and
Etihad Airways have already flooded civilian air markets in Australia and New Zealand, where some critics regard the well-heeled Gulf carriers as potential Death Stars. The Postmedia News agency said rapid expansion of Emirates and
Etihad is caused increasing anxiety in Europe, too.

Executives from Lufthansa, Air France and British Airways have warned as recently as this week that the Gulf carriers could destroy their businesses if the European Union does not put in place strong checks on their expansion there, the news agency said.

Emirates and Etihad have between them more than 300 wide-body aircraft on order from Boeing and Airbus, including large numbers of mammoth double-decker A-380s, the biggest commercial airplanes flying today. All those aircraft need to secure landing slots, according to the Canadian wire service.

As it is, Emirates already flies to more than 100 destinations, including unlikely daily non-stops from Dubai to Brazil. It also has a dense flight network in Africa, Asia and Europe where, for example, it flies an Airbus 380 every day to Manchester, the report said.

(Gurmukh Singh can be contacted at gurmukh.s@ians.in)

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