A minor comment from Emirates president Tim Clark has set the Middle East aviation gossip mill into overdrive. Clark told Reuters that Emirates is willing to cooperate with Etihad, but that a complete merger is unlikely. Aviation consultants are ignoring the second part of his quote though!
“I think there is value to be had working more closely with them,” Clark told Reuters by phone, adding there might be concerns from regulators in some foreign markets. There are many areas that the airlines could work together on like procurement. But we have to go the first jump first to understand what it is we could do and I‘m simply the manager of one of the businesses. It is my superiors who have to make that call, not me.”
With Etihad unlikely to make money anytime soon, cooperation could actually be on the horizon. The airline wouldn’t comment specifically on Emirates, but did say – “We constantly seek opportunities for innovative collaboration with other organizations, where it makes business and commercial sense.”
The Emirates base in Dubai is located less than 90 minutes from Etihad in Abu Dhabi. Dubai World Central, the new airport under construction, will be able to handle 160M passengers per year. That airport will definitely be capable of supporting much of the Etihad traffic, though will Abu Dhabi be willing to give up direct flights to locations around the world? Could the airline maintain links to major cities like London and New York, while allowing other routes to move to Dubai?
For now, it doesn’t matter as this is all simply gossip…