Dubai: Emirates airline's further expansion into the German market is running into potential opposition from the German government.
The German press reported last week that the Transport Ministry might limit the number of flights Emirates is allowed to fly to protect home carrier Lufthansa.
"Emirates is clearly planning to turn the Gulf region into a hub for a global, continuously growing traffic network, thereby diverting traditionally direct connections between Europe and the Far East or Africa to the Middle East," the Transport Ministry's report said, a copy of which was obtained by Sueddeutsche Zeitung, a German newspaper.
Emirates currently operates 49 flights a week to Germany, flying daily or double-daily service to Hamburg, Frankfurt, Munich and Duesseldorf.
This is the maximum number of flights Emirates is allowed under bilateral air rights between the UAE and Germany. Under the rights agreement, Etihad also flies daily to Munich and Frankfurt.
"Germany is one of Emirates' most important commercial markets in Europe and we would like to serve more cities," an Emirates spokesperson said, naming Berlin and Stuttgart as targets for expansion. Emirates declined to comment on the negotiations as they were a governmental matter.
According to German media reports, the German government fears that these routes might hurt Lufthansa's network of domestic flights.
With Emirates' proposed routes, long-haul travellers who would normally fly from Berlin and Stuttgart to Frankfurt and then on to international destinations would now be able to fly direct from their home cities.
One reported option is that Emirates may be allowed to fly to Berlin and Stuttgart only if its weekly flight allotment remains unchanged, meaning it would have to pare down frequencies to other German cities first.
This is not the first time Emirates has been the subject of examination on its potential effect on Lufthansa.
Earlier this year, the European Centre for Aviation Development (ECAD), a consultancy affiliated with Lufthansa, issued a report highlighting the differences between Emirates and its German peer. Among its findings, ECAD said landing fees are nearly nine times more expensive in Germany than in Dubai.
Also, while Emirates pays its cabin crew roughly the same as Lufthansa does, income taxes and other fees force Lufthansa to spend 28 per cent more per attendant than Emirates.