Etihad chief Hogan in Canada to press for more landing rights

Authorities urged to keep an open mind as James Hogan insists UAE carriers pose no threat to domestic airlines.
James Hogan, the chief executive of Etihad Airways, says opening the skies over Canada would be good for everyone. Sammy Dallal / The National
James Hogan, the chief executive of Etihad Airways, says opening the skies over Canada would be good for everyone. Sammy Dallal / The National
The chief executive of Etihad Airways is urging Canada to "keep an open mind" on his first visit to the North American country since the beginning of a dispute over landing rights for the growing Abu Dhabi airline.

Speaking to the Toronto Board of Trade yesterday, James Hogan steered clear of politics but said opening the skies over Canada would be good for everyone.

"We are no threat to Canadian airlines or to Canadian aviation," he said in prepared remarks provided in advance of his speech yesterday afternoon. "We come in peace, as the Martians like to say."

The UAE has been trying unsuccessfully to negotiate a deal to allow Emirates Airline and Etihad to expand their services to Canada. They say their existing flights are averaging more than 90 per cent capacity but Canadian officials have not been swayed. Air Canada has actively opposed the request for further landing rights and government officials have said they do not think allowing more is in the country's commercial interest.

The controversy peaked last autumn when the UAE closed a Canadian military base outside Dubai and raised the cost of visas for Canadians travelling to the country.

In an interview with the Canadian news agency Postmedia News, Mr Hogan said the airline expanded its services into other underserved cities in countries such as Australia, which was initially also reluctant to allow additional flights. The move did not ultimately impact the country's national carriers.

He said Etihad favoured bilateral partnerships to "isolationism" and argued more landing rights would be good for trade and tourism in both Canada and the UAE. In particular, he said new services would make it easier for travellers from emerging markets in the Middle East to visit or work in Canada.

"Etihad is sourcing its traffic from markets where total demand is growing and from many markets that nobody else flies from," he said. "There is no difference between Etihad leveraging growing markets on its doorstep and Canadian carriers sourcing traffic from the USA over its Canadian hubs into Europe."

Etihad and Emirates are currently allowed to fly to Canada up to three times per week, and both only fly into Toronto. Mr Hogan said he would like to offer daily flights to Toronto and then look at flying into other Canadian cities.

He also again rejected criticism that UAE airlines were putting competitors at a disadvantage because they were subsidised and did not pay taxes.

Bilateral negotiations between Canada and the UAE are ongoing, Mr Hogan said, adding he was optimistic of a positive resolution.

"We work through the process but I'd like to think, if you step back and looked at what the Gulf carriers have contributed . since 2005, we've opened up new routes into Canada, we've made it much more accessible, we've employed Canadians in our business and we've got a great airline," he said. "I believe there's good will on both sides and at the end of the day there will be a solution."

Published: June 4, 2011 04:00 AM


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