Dutch hold on Gulf carriers until EU decision

Dubai: Gulf carriers will not be able to launch new flights to Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport until the European Union agrees on how to tackle alleged state subsidies to airline in the region, a Dutch Minister has told Gulf News.

European Transport Commissioner Violet Bulc said earlier this month she wants a mandate to negotiate directly with the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, which includes the UAE, to ensure fair aviation competition.

Wilma Mansveld, Dutch State Secretary for the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, who supports the initiative, told Gulf News by email late on Thursday that, “Since the granting of additional traffic rights will be part of such a comprehensive agreement, this means that the Netherlands will not issue any additional traffic rights to carriers from Gulf states, as long as negotiations on this agreement are ongoing.”

The Dutch restrictions are seen to block the expansion of the Gulf’s three largest airlines, Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways and protect the interests of Franco-Dutch airline Air France-KLM. On Thursday, Emirates, who fly twice daily from Dubai to Amsterdam and Etihad, who fly once daily from Abu Dhabi and code-share on a flight with Air France-KLM, both said they had not received any notification from the Dutch government. Qatar Airways has not replied to several requests to comment.

The blocking comes amid claims by the US’ largest airlines that their Gulf competitors are benefiting from “unfair” state subsidies. Air France-KLM and Germany’s Lufthansa have also taken issue over the alleged subsidies.

Mansveld, who earlier this week said she wanted the Europe to take a “tougher” stance on Middle East airlines, told Gulf News that, “safeguarding a level playing field is essential.”

She said that any new EU-Gulf agreement “should address a wide variety of issues including safety, security, regulatory convergence, the establishment of a policy preventing unfair competition, as well as increased access to the aviation markets of both sides.”

Mansvel also said that “existing traffic rights [of the Gulf carriers] will be respected.”

Originally published on GulfNews.com.