Emirates president says more airline alliances are possible

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The president of long-haul carrier Emirates suggested on Tuesday that it could reach deals with more firms to share routes after the start of a similar arrangement with U.S.-based United Airlines.

Tim Clark, who joined the airline in 1985 when it was first launched, also suggests Emirates remains ready for expansion as the carrier again takes flight following the grounding during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking to journalists at the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai, Clark said that the United deal — as well as one with Air Canada — shows that carriers are no longer just looking at Emirates as a “dastardly competitor.” U.S. airlines had complained for years about unequal competition from Mideast carriers, describing them as receiving unfair government subsidies to operate.

Emirates, though owned by Dubai’s hereditarily ruled government, always denied having an unfair advantage. United had been one of the U.S. airlines challenging Emirates, though a deal in recent years saw the dispute dropped. United now flies as well to Dubai, a destination it abandoned in 2016 amid the dispute.

Clark hinted that other airlines could reach similar route deals with Emirates, known in the aviation industry as codeshare partnerships.

“I’m not going to say who they are because it’s early days, but clearly the door’s been opened,” he said.

Clark separately said he welcomed new competition from Saudi Arabia as well, which recently announced plans to create a new carrier called Riyadh Air as part of trillions of dollars worth of spending planned in the kingdom.

Meanwhile, Clark said Emirates hoped to receive new aircraft from Boeing Co. in the coming two years, some 150 777Xs and 30 787 Dreamliners. Emirates also has 50 Airbus A350-900s on order.

While waiting for the orders, Emirates is carrying out retrofits on its fleet of double-decker Airbus A380s. Some still remain grounded since the pandemic. Clark said he hopes they’ll all get off the ground by next summer.

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