Dubai: As a large and lucrative European air travel market, Germany is likely to witness a new tussle between Lufthansa and rapidly-growing Gulf carriers that are challenging the German flagship carrier's market dominance.
Lufthansa wants German politicians to block further expansion of Emirates into Germany, but the Dubai-based airline hopes that its request for new destinations will be "positively considered by the German authorities."
Thierry Antinori, executive vice-president of marketing and sales at Lufthansa, said that there was an "imbalance" in competition because his airline could only have "limited" market access because of the UAE's smaller size while Gulf airlines can serve several German routes.
"The UAE airlines have four times more flights than Lufthansa," Antinori contended, complaining that bilateral traffic rights are "not being balanced" and the German carrier is facing "a very tough competition."
He said while Lufthansa accepts the current level of market access Gulf carriers enjoy in Germany, there should be "better balance in the future."
"We have to make the situation clear to politicians," Antinori told Gulf News, declaring that the company would oppose "wild expansion and new traffic rights" for Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways.
Emirates responded to Lufthansa's resistance to its expansion, saying it "always welcomes competition."
At present, Emirates has 49 flights to Frankfurt, Hamburg, Düsseldorf and Munich and is looking to add Berlin and Stuttgart to its German network.
A spokeswoman said the airline had "boosted the German economy by billions of euros, not least because we have bought a large number of German-built Airbus aircraft."
"We find it curious some argue we shouldn't be allowed to operate a German-built aircraft to Germany carrying international visitors to Germany and German cargo and exports back to Dubai," she said.
Transit passengers flying between Europe and Asia are crucial to the growth of Gulf carriers and their hubs of Dubai, Doha and Abu Dhabi.
Expansion of German routes by Gulf-based carriers is seen as a challenge to Lufthansa's dominant position in traffic between Europe and Asia. Airlines like Emirates could also dent Lufthansa's share between the United States and India.
"Carriage of connecting passengers is an inherent component of the overall traffic mix for all network carriers, including Lufthansa. In the end, it is the customer's decision to choose an airline or preferred routing. Competition is vital in both point-to-point and passengers travelling further afield," Emirates said.
The airline hopes that its request for Berlin and Stuttgart flying rights "will be positively considered by the German authorities, in the context of Germany's civil aviation policies."
A Qatar Airways spokesman told Gulf News the airline remains keen to add frequencies and destinations in Germany to attract Germans to use Doha as their transit point for their Asia travel. Qatar Airways has 24 flights per week to Berlin, Frankfurt and Munich.
"We would like to fly to more German cities straightaway but under the existing bilateral agreement we are unable to do so. Qatar Airways would appreciate a further opening of protected markets in Europe, in particular Germany," he said.
Dubai Lufthansa is adding flights to the Middle East this summer, when outbound travel picks up from the region.
Jeddah and Riyadh will each have a daily non-stop flight from Frankfurt. There will now also be a daily flight to Muscat.
Starting September 22, the Lufthansa Business Jet, an all-business class service, will also be used on the Frankfurt-Bahrain and Frankfurt-Dammam routes for the first time.
At present the company serves the Dubai route using the business jet.
There will also be additional flights to Algiers, Sana'a and Dubai.