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Emirates request rejected

The Austrian infrastructure ministry has dismissed Emirates’ appeal for increased landing rights.

The booming airline – which was founded in 1985 – wanted to offer two daily flights between Vienna International Airport (VIA or VIE) and Dubai International Airport (DXB) from Sunday (25 March). Now federal Social Democratic (SPÖ) Traffic Minister Doris Bures rejected the application.

The decision by the ministry’s aviation regulations department means that Emirates’ weekly activity remains unchanged at 13 flights until the end of October. Emirates’ intention to operate more often from VIA to DXB has been causing a stir since last year when Lufthansa and its Austrian subsidiary company Austrian Airlines (AUA) reportedly tried to get the federal government coalition of SPÖ and People’s Party (ÖVP) to reject their rival’s request.

Emirates President Tim Clark said at that time he was "shocked about what happened". The British businessman, who has headed Emirates since 2003, said his firm always had an "amicable relationship" with the Austrian government. "I wonder who’s behind (the recent developments)," Clark said, adding that "Lufthansa is obviously deeply worried about our presence. (...) We just want to do our job. We aim to offer an excellent product and match the interests of our customers."

Niki Lauda, who founded low-cost carrier FlyNiki, said Lufthansa’s alleged interference in talks between the SPÖ-ÖVP coalition and Emirates chiefs "is of the most unfair occurrences I have ever experienced. (...) Austria is not a sheltered workshop."

AUA – which made a loss of almost 60 million Euros last year despite rising passenger figures – accused Emirates of paying lower taxes on kerosene. The Viennese carrier also criticised that the airline, which is based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), for disallowing the creation of a works committee.

In related news, FlyNiki staff joined forces for a works council. Austrian press reported earlier this week that the budget airline’s 800 pilots, cabin crew and ground personnel were working on the establishment of a panel representing their interests. The plan is to unveil more details on International Workers’ Day (1 May). Until then, the future heads of the FlyNiki works committee prefer anonymity due to concerns about how the airline’s board and bosses of its mother company, Air Berlin, might react.

Air Berlin CEO Hartmut Mehdorn said he had no objections to their plans for a works council but also warned that all departments of the firm would have to accept cutbacks in the coming months. Mehdorn headed German railroad company Deutsche Bahn (DB) between 1999 and 2009. He joined Air Berlin – which sustained a loss of 272 million Euros in 2011 – last September.

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