The president and CEO of Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways, James Hogan, has met with the European Commission Transport Commissioner, Violeta Bulc, to highlight the purported benefits the airline brings to the European economy.
Hogan claimed that any move to limit foreign carrier access to the continent by European authorities would potentially undermine confidence in its commitment to global trade and investment.
Etihad and fellow Gulf airlines Emirates and Qatar Airways have faced fierce criticism from established European rivals such Lufthansa and Air France-KLM, which have called on EU authorities to actively limit their expansion on the continent.
By way of response, Hogan cited an Oxford Business report that claimed Etihad’s operations added $1 billion annually to the combined GDP of the 28 EU member nations and supported more than 11,000 jobs. Additionally, the airline’s 2014 capital spending on aircraft and other aviation equipment contributed US$2.6 billion to the EU28 GDP, and supported more than 28,100 jobs.
The research also showed that during the past decade, the airline’s operations contributed approximately US$6.1 billion to the EU28 GDP, while its capital spending on aircraft and aviation equipment exceeded US$11 billion dollars.
“Etihad Airways is not just another foreign airline flying to Europe to poach local traffic,” said Hogan. “We are a sophisticated partner to and investor in Europe for long-term mutual benefit, contributing billions of euros every year to EU and non-EU economies, supporting tens of thousands of jobs and both maintaining and expanding choice for air travellers to and from Europe. Through our own flights, our 21 European codeshare partnerships and our minority investments in five European airlines, we are adding value to Europe in a way that no other foreign airline is.
“In 2014 alone we carried 3.3 million passengers to and from EU economies, connecting 618,000 travellers onto flights by our EU codeshare partners, and accommodating 368,000 of their passengers on our flights.
“Etihad Airways is committed to Europe. But growing resistance to us from a handful of protectionist competitors could have unintended consequences well beyond limiting our development. If our growth is curtailed or our investments in airlines are compromised, the real damage will be to Europe in lost jobs, lost flight connectivity, lost investment in local and national economies and lost consumer choice.”