Shaikh Ahmad Bin Saeed Al Maktoum
Shaikh Ahmad Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of Dubai Civil Aviation and Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates airline and Group, along with other officials at the opening of the Aviation Security Conference in Dubai on Sunday. Image Credit: Atiq ur Rehman /Gulf News

Dubai: The head of Emirates airline said on Sunday that the carrier is working closely with Etihad Airways, and left the door open for further cooperation between the two in back office operations.

Tim Clark, president of Emirates, said that while it’s important each airline remains a separate entity, there are many areas including engine overhaul and supply chain where they can work together. Etihad and Emirates already cooperate in aviation security, as well as in maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) works.

“We have a closer working relationship with Etihad than we’ve ever had. Tony Douglas [Etihad’s chief executive officer] and I often have in-depth conversations about what we can do behind the scenes,” he said.

“Obviously, Etihad has to remain Etihad, and Emirates has to remain, but where we share back of house stuff, there’s absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t share it — as long as we do not enter into competition law in all the areas of the market we serve which we don’t, of course.”

Speculations about a potential merger between the two have been rife for years, but Emirates and Etihad repeatedly denied them. In January 2018, the two signed an agreement to work together in aviation security, marking the first deal between them. They have since cooperated in MRO and in managing contact centres.

Speaking to reporters on Sunday in Dubai, Clark also said that Emirates’ financial performance for the first half of 2019 was better year-on-year despite reduced operations between April and May as one of the two runways at Dubai International Airport closed for refurbishment.

“I’m content that it is better than we thought it would be, given that we had to shut down one of the runways at the airport for seven weeks, and it’s also better than last year, but it’s for the chairman to make that announcement,” he said.

Emirates reported an 86 per cent decline in its net profit in the first half of 2019 on the back of higher fuel costs. Clark said that while the recent spike in oil prices following drone attacks on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia will “of course” affect Emirates, the carrier is “quite good at mitigating oil prices.”

“Of course we’re concerned with any spike in prices. We just have to live with the way it moves. Hopefully, we’ll get some stability but at the moment, we just have to live with what we’ve got.”