Emirates Tries to Grow Beyond Its Home Market, Others Freak Out

Emirates, Government Regulation

Emirates is a big airline, and it’s only going to keep getting bigger. But while Dubai is a large and growing hub, Emirates has been looking for ways to expand beyond its home base because of the tremendous capacity it is bringing online. The answer seems to be the use of fifth freedom rights bringing passengers from one country to another outside the United Arab Emirates. (I told you yesterday we’d be talking about this shortly.) This naturally scares the heck out of other airlines, so they’ve been fighting it vigorously. Right now, the spotlight is on one single route, the one between New York/JFK and Milan/Malpensa. But this is just one of the battlegrounds in a future world war.

Emirates Pinky and the Brain

Of the roughly 300 or so A380s that have been ordered, Emirates is responsible for just under half. Last November, it added 50 orders for the airplane to bring its eventual total up to an incredible 140. That doesn’t include the more than 100 777s it operates or the order for 150 of the new 777X aircraft that’s on the books. This airline is already huge but it’s going to get way bigger.

Dubai is an incredible crossroads and Emirates has made its living almost entirely on shuffling people into and through that hub. It has ventured out, on occasion. It flies Trans-Tasman routes between Australia and New Zealand. It also runs a flight from Hong Kong to Bangkok and does other similar ones in Asia. In the Americas, it briefly operated a flight from JFK to Hamburg but that disappeared in 2008. Now, however, times are different. And when Emirates started flying from New York/JFK to Milan/Malpensa on October 1, other airlines (notably Delta and the Air Line Pilots Association) freaked out.

It’s no surprise that this route would be contentious. After all, Delta, American, and Alitalia all fly from JFK to Milan, and United flies from Newark. It’s already a competitive route, but now it’s become even more competitive. And it’s proving to be the so-called line in the sand that many airlines hope will prevent Emirates (and other Gulf carriers) from expanding further.

US/Canada and EU-based airlines don’t like Emirates encroaching on their turf. There have been accusations for years that Emirates has an unfair cost advantage. The reality is that it does have an advantage because it operates in a country that wants to promote aviation instead of penalize it. But it’s not getting a discount on fuel or anything like that. It’s just able to avoid the stifling taxes that others face. It also has an advantage in some areas of labor (particularly the lower skilled areas) but really, it is an airline that’s competing under the law and making money doing it. That scares a lot of airlines because they don’t like the idea of competing against someone with a structural advantage that can’t be matched. I can’t blame them, but that doesn’t mean it should be illegal.

The details of why this particular move is or isn’t allowed remains murky to me, so maybe someone else knows this better. Emirates received permission from Italy’s Civil Aviation Authority (ENAC) to start the flight and it did just that. Assaereo, the trade group that represents Italian airlines, went to the courts to say Emirates shouldn’t have been given permission according to the agreement between the two countries. The courts agreed and ruled that Emirates should not have been given permission, but that has been appealed. In the meantime, Emirates is allowed to continue flying the route.

I’m not sure why Italy is even involved since it seems to me that it should be a European Union issue, but if Italy is the problem, then this is an isolated case. (Attempts to get any information from ENAC predictably resulted in no response.) Emirates will still find plenty of opportunities elsewhere, even if it is forced to stop the Milan flight at some point.

The big question is, however, whether it should be illegal. Emirates runs three 777s a day between Dubai and Milan. One of those continues on to New York, and I’m guessing that’s what allows Emirates to operate as many flights as it does in the Milan market. For Emirates, it’s great because it keeps an airplane in the air, flying profitably and providing options to travelers. For travelers, it’s another option in an already busy market, but more competition is generally good, right? Not always.

If Emirates has a structural advantage that can’t be matched by carriers in other countries, then there is risk of real financial harm to the airlines in those countries. There are possible regulatory moves that could help level the playing field (such as employment rules), but even without that happening, is it bad? Quite honestly is very hard for me to wrap my head around completely. I can see arguments for both sides, and it’s not crystal clear to me that one is absolutely right.

The only thing I do know is that this isn’t a problem that’s going to go away. For Emirates, what this is really about is finding a place to put all those airplanes. The airline has already butted heads with European carriers for years, but thanks to geography, US carriers have been mostly isolated. Now if Emirates can start operating from the US to Europe, South America, or Asia, it’s going to cause all kinds of friction here in the US. And that’s why we see this line being drawn now. It’s going to be a fight that goes on for a long time. And I can’t say I know who should win.

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48 comments on “Emirates Tries to Grow Beyond Its Home Market, Others Freak Out

  1. If Emirates decides to make a major move on the US market I wouldn’t be surprised to see US airlines
    go to the Dept. of Transportation or the US Congress to try and stop them some way.

  2. While MXP-NYC is heavily served, from a consumer perspective, Emirates offers a superior product in every class of service, greater reliability and higher service levels. There’s no reason why local carriers could not match this. It’s not really Emirates’ fault that its US and Italian competitors are beset by labour relations issues, higher labour costs and a high tax environment…

    For years, and despite the (illegal?) bail outs and inherent protectionism of its government, Alitalia has under-served Milan, so the locals are thrilled that there’s now another choice! If Alitalia went bust as a result of competition, and was replaced by proper airlines with appropriate cost structures, surely that would be a good thing for consumers – proper price competition, and no longer will fares (and income taxes) be subsidising trade unions and pension deficits

    And from the US perspective, Emirates is only doing what US carriers have been doing for years and years. Remember the NW/DL and PA/UA hubs at NRT? What about PA/UA and CO daily trans-Tasman flights? Oh, and the FRA/LHR/CDG hubs for PA/TW/DL? There’s nothing to stop US carriers coming back to these routes if they wanted to (well, other than the fact they have a service and cost disadvantage…), nor from flying anywhere in the world as often as they like from Dubai (it has an open skies policy), nor from setting up a low-tax crew base in Dubai, staffed with Thais and Filipinos (well, other than the fact that their US unions would riot…)

    This all smacks of state-sponsored protectionism and union abuse to me…

    1. Bingo! You called it. It is the same reason US airlines didn’t want Virgin America to get off the ground. They don’t like the fact there are other airlines out there with a much better product with lower costs. It is a free market, and consumers should be allowed to shop around for the cheapest airfare (or shop for the amenities they value), regardless of where that airline is based or the cost structure of the propped up state-run airline.

    2. kt74 – Actually, I would strongly disagree on the product. I would say that Emirates an inferior product in every class, with the exception of First Class since nobody else offers it. In business, Emirates has an angled flat 2-3-2 configuration which is garbage. Both Delta and Alitalia have fully flat beds with direct aisle access.

      In coach, Emirates crams in 10 abreast on a 777. Delta’s seats are nearly an inch wider. Alitalia also has a good premium economy class and Delta has Economy Comfort with even more legroom.

      I’m not going to try compare American and its bad offering, but if I’m in business, I’m certainly not choosing Emirates if I care about sleeping.

      1. Product is about more than seating though. Never mind the limos on both ends, the lounges, the IFE, the Bulgari toiletries in the amenity kit, the higher attendant-to-pax ratio, etc. At least with Emirates you’re less likely to be grounded because of a strike… And true, it is 10 abreast in Y, but width is the same as AZ, and pitch is 1-2 inches higher than others – give me pitch over width any day (plus decent IFE and free cocktails to drown my sorrows with)

        EK is not even having to discount wildly, as my (totally unscientific) check of several date pairs in May shows that Alitalia is typically 10% cheaper than Emirates in J, even without flat beds, local corporate contracts or a halfway decent FFP. And *still* nobody wants to fly AZ! My corporate travel policy even has a specific exception saying that you don’t have to fly AZ to MXP/LIN, even if the alternative option is policy non-compliant!

        1. I didn’t realize that the 85% of the passengers on an EK 777 who sit in Y got limo service on both ends and lounge access. Sounds like I’ll have to start flying them.

        2. Have to disagree with you on EK’s Y class seating – I found the experience downright miserable, though granted, what constitutes “miserable” is in the eye of the beholder. My biggest disappointment with EK, though, was the level of onboard service. Frankly, I found the FAs disinterested, doing only the bare minimum required before hiding in the galley for the rest of the flight. In other words, really no different than AA/DL/UA. QR was far superior, and provided a more comfy 3-3-3 config in Y to boot.

        3. kt74 – You seem to be only comparing to Alitalia and not to Delta, because striking isn’t an issue at Delta. If you care about your amenity kit, then Emirates may be better for you. My point is that it’s hard to argue that Emirates is an outright king of product when it’s hard product is vastly inferior. And that applies to both Delta and Alitalia in business. The Alitalia business seat is very nice. Mess of an airline, but the onboard offering isn’t bad.

            1. David and Nick – But that’s all part of the fun with Alitalia. This disaster of a business probably spends too much money on the product it offers. That makes the business lose even more money, so it’s great! But I really wouldn’t hesitate to fly them because the product isn’t bad.

              Though I should compensate for this by writing about my awful experience dealing with an Alitalia schedule change the other day. Because they refuse to do what makes sense, they ended up losing $75 on the transaction. It was brilliant.

            2. Someone get CF to the hospital stat! something is wrong.

              CF, Breathe deeply, exhale – now repeat – don’t you feel better? LOL

              Pinky – Hey Brain, what are we going to do tonight?
              Brain – The same thing we do every night Pinky, try to take over the world!

  3. Even Emirates has done similar routes (i.e. serving the US via Europe) before. I seem to remember that an EK 777 went DXB-HAM-JFK up to about 5 years ago. What’s the fuss all about?

    1. I think the fuss is whether Emirates is going to increase by a significant margin the number of flights to the US in the future, it looks like that is a real possibility considering the number of new
      planes they have on order. Look for US airlines to try and put up as many roadblocks as they can to protect their turf.

  4. Honestly, I hope this’d make the US carriers up their game. Rather than protest and get the gov’t. to protect their sub-par service.

    As someone who has been fortunate enough to fly upfront for work on UA, DL, BA, CX, NH, and KE – the service on the DL and UA flights just isn’t good. Sometimes the hard product is ok, depending on the plane, but the service isn’t ever amazing, and the food is usually terrible.

    I lucked out over this past weekend. Did DL from SIN-NRT, and then NRT-JFK. Was upstairs on the second leg, and the two attendants working were excellent. But that was 1 out of 4 flights on that trip.

    Maybe instead of the knee-jerk protest and dramatic reactions, they should look inward and figure out how to offer a kick-ass product that people want to pay for.

  5. I can talk about how uncomfortable the 10 abreast 777 is and how they don’t have flat beds in business and that their hard product isn’t as good as UA or DL, but they should still have the 5th freedom right to do this flight. It looks like Italy is just protecting their airline who would be unable to compete on an open market.

    1. I find it VERY difficult to say that ANY airline is worse than United in Y class. Unless you pony up more bucks for a reasonably sized seat your flight is shear torture. AND I am not big in stature. 10 abreast on Emirate would not be my first choice to travel, unless it was priced extremely low, and then I would still have to think twice on it.

      Brett, I personally am happy to see more competition in ANY industry. The US airlines have abandoned the rule of good customer service (ground and air) long ago. They continue to offer “Take it or leave it” attitudes on everything from airfares, seating and service to available routes, limited number of flights and routing of those flights to your destination. Case in point: How many flights to European destinations must connect through LHR, which automatically adds penalizing levels of extra tax on the flight, plus the agony of going though the passenger overflow at that airport? This is just one example.

      I believe that there is definitely room for more competition in the U.S. skies. It also serves as a wake-up call to the U.S. airline industry that they should not consider the American travelers a captive audience. I say Good for Emerates!! It may very well be Great for U.S. air travelers.

  6. As was said before, EK isn’t doing anything that other carriers haven’t done or are doing now, so what’s the big deal. Look at the nonstops between LAX and LHR, are US and British carriers protesting NZ flying the route, no and they’ve been doing it for decades.

    If it was say Kenya Airlines flying it no one would give a hoot, but since it’s EK that is the only reason.

  7. I know there are a lot of EK fanboi’s out that love to beat up on American based carriers for their so-called inferior product. Up front that may well be true but as someone who is not up front I can assure you that the difference between foreign and domestic carriers is minimal at best. I’d rather have the miles flying Delta (gasp) than be crammed 10 abreast on EK. I also don’t particularly want to fly in a A380 cattle car. Given the option, when flying in the back-o-bus I’ll take my US based carrier.

    I do support more competition and think expansion of EK is generally a good thing. I don’t think they will succeed everywhere and I actually think they’ll fail miserably at some places. Should be interesting to watch if the lobbyists and congress allow it to happen.

    1. This is interesting to me as I had to fly EK to a client site in DXB. I was originally told J class was a distinct possibility, and was quite displeased to
      find out that it was actually Y. You can imagine my dread at boarding the flight from LAX to DXB.

      Fortunately, my fears were misplaced as the flight was very good. EK provides decent pitch, generous recline, and good meals with actual metal silverware. IFE was good, and I managed to catch some sleep when I felt tired. I didn’t even notice the 10 across seating.

      After that I went on to fly DXB-SEA, ICN-DXB, DXB-JFK (all in Y) on a combination of A380 and 777 equipment, and my only complaints stem from the final snacks offered just before landing being sort of a let down (I think one offered a hot pocket) and other passengers on one of my flights. I think the A380 feels slightly cramped, but all of the experiences were better than I would expect to have on flights of similar lengths with US airlines.

      It has been a couple years and there have been improvements for sure (well maybe with DL) but the colleagues who flew the likes of UA and DL to DXB sure didn’t have any good things to say about their flights.

      1. If you think the EK A380 is cramped now, just wait. Airbus is talking about an 11-abreast A380, and EK is thought to be the prime customer.

  8. The charge that has been leveled against the likes of EK/EY/QR is that they are receiving massive subsidies from their respective governments to keep fares low, thus providing the unfair advantage opponents keep pointing to. How much truth there is to that, I don’t know, but if it is true, then that’s something that definitely needs to be dealt with. There is also a lot of talk about unfair labor practices at Middle Eastern airlines (notably the story you linked to a few months ago detailing abuses at QR), though as you note, that’s something that can be fairly easily addressed through employment regulations if both sides are so inclined.

    If the subsidies issue is the problem here, then I find it highly amusing that the Italians are complaining about it, given their long and sordid history of using taxpayer dollars to prop up the failing Alitalia.

    1. And just as ironic that the U.S. Airlines and labor unions are complaining about it given that U.S. tax payers are now backing most of their pension plans through the PBGC.

      Of course the other irony is that all of those Boeing 777 that were sold to Emirates at deep discounts were directly subsidized by U.S. tax payers….

      “Boeing’s federal tax rate works out to negative 3.3 percent.”


      1. I have doubts that labor practices are much different at any ME carrier than described in the article about QR. I will happily fly a US carrier knowing the crew are rested, competent (think USAIR on the Hudson) fairly well paid and somewhat protected from capricious management practices and exploitation by their right to organize an operate a union.

        I enjoy young, good looking cabin staff as much as the next person but prefer to patronize companies where people get to keep their jobs as long as they can physically do them and not be fired for gaining 10 pounds, reaching the ripe old age of 28 or getting married. Even though I sometimes wish the service was better its a small price to pay for peace of mind.

        Carriers that offloaded pensions to the PBGC should be ashamed. Its not because the pensions were lavish, its a Chapter 11 accounting gimmick to offload costs to the US taxpayer. Privatize profits and socialize losses.

        For the record I don’t work for an airline (used to work for a ME carrier though back in the 90s.)

    2. MeanMeosh – I think it’s unfair to lump Emirates/Etihad/Qatar into the same bucket when it comes to subsidies. Emirates is pretty clear that it isn’t subsidized. It publishes a ton of financial data and has an independent auditor (pwc). That doesn’t mean it doesn’t operate in an advantageous environment, but it doesn’t receive direct subsidies.

      I don’t know anyone who would say the same for Etihad.

  9. Wouldn’t 5th freedom rights need to be negotiated? In this case between IT, US and UAE? What I don’t get is why EK is so hung up on flying from Europe to USA, when they have this lovely facility in DXB from where they can fly as often as they wish (I do think the US and UAE have an open sky agreement, right?). Maybe they just can’t fill all those A380 and 777, so they feel the need to move in on someone else’s turf?

    I just don’t think that 5th freedom rights should be given to every airline, and that we need to have some process for reviewing the merits of such a request.

    1. BOS Flyer – Yes, those rights are negotiated and that’s the crux of the lawsuit. They say that it wasn’t done per the rules of the agreement. But I still have no idea why Italy is even involved. Seems to me that it should be subject to the EU agreements that are out there, but that’s an area I just don’t know well enough.

      As for Emirates, the facility isn’t the issue in Dubai. It has to be the demand.

      1. In the EU, the permissions for commercial aviation are still being granted by the national civil aviation authorities of the member states. Because these are part of the national governments, their decisions can then be contested according to the regular procedures of that state which will involve a court of that nation. European courts only join the fun when the national court isn’t sure how to interpret EU legislation.

  10. The CAPA website did a great analysis of Middle East carriers to see if they had unfair advantages.

    They concluded that, no they don’t. They are just more fuel efficient and provide a service people want.

  11. kt74 above said it best. US carriers exercised and fought for fifth freedom rights for years. That’s how PA and TW both had round the world capabilities with 707s in the 60s and 70s. Now US carriers are pissing and moaning about EK doing it. Shut up US carriers…get back to work, improve your product and your service (yes, for some of us frequent travelers service still makes a difference!) and compete. Quit looking to the courts or government regulation to protect you. You have lowered your levels of service step by step, year over year, regardless of which cabin a passenger is in. The result of that action (not something the US government forced you to do, by the way…no one to blame on this one but the carriers and their inept management) is that passengers will look for alternatives that provide a better level of service. EK/QR/EY and anyone else should have the legal right to fly this route or any other. Buck up US carriers…you built this sandbox…now play in it!

  12. Why did the DOT approve this? I assume EK needed both EU/Italy and US approval. In general, what are the criteria for approving 5th freedom routes like this?

    1. Oliver – Well, the US and UAE have an open skies agreement so I’m not sure that further approval was necessary. I’m assuming that was built into the agreement but I don’t know for sure. Either way, that doesn’t seem to have been a hurdle.

      1. Thanks. I didn’t expect that Open Skies meant fly to the respective countries from anywhere on the planet as long as the 3rd country agrees. Never stop learning :)

  13. I agree with the sentiment here that US carriers should suck it up and try to compete. When you’re printing money at the rate the carriers like Delta are these days, it’s hard to make the argument that you can’t compete because it’s not profitable.

    That said, there’s an issue here that people seem to want to ignore. That’s the fact that it’s important for countries to have viable domestic airlines so their business communities do not have to rely on the whims of a foreign country affecting their ability to travel. Nations will naturally be protectionist when it comes to airlines. If the US carriers can make a case against EK expanding into their turf hurting their long-term viability, the regulators are going to listen.

    If DXB truly has open-skies policies, then it’s a tough case for the US carriers to make because frankly it’s their geography that makes their network work. Delta is more than welcome to use DXB as a hub if that’s the case. You also can’t cry about the financial backing fueling the aircraft purchases at EK because there’s just as much money over here. The difference is their money people see a viable EK as an investment in building Dubai. Over here, investors stay away from airline stocks. I think it comes down to labor and taxation and that’s what negotiations are for. If EK wants to expand into the TATL market, they’re going to have to calm the fears of the local airlines by leveling the playing field. Whether this means EU/US crewbases to fly the TATL legs or just paying their people more, they’re going to have do something. And then they’re going to have to negotiate some kind of simulated tax to bring the cost of corporate taxation on those routes in line with what US/EU carriers suffer at the hands of their governments.

    The point is that 5th Freedom routes are not automatic. If they were, there wouldn’t be any negotiation. Also keep in mind that the range of airliners were much less when this system was set up. How many 5th freedom routes are truly necessary especially from a central location like DXB? The US/EU carriers hold the cards here, like it or not. In a pissing match, the guy who lives in the country who has the most people willing to pay to travel wins. If EK and DXB get mad and retaliate, there is one destination where US/EU carriers can’t fly. However, it shuts EK down and their competitors will gladly go back to servicing those routes. The ball is in EK’s court to play nice whether you agree with that or not. The deck is just stacked against them here.

    1. Two observations

      Italy’s business community already has two viable, profitable, reliable airlines providing domestic service on business trunk routes (to the extent possible when slots are reserved for AZ) – they’re easyJet and Ryanair. Indeed, are Hungarian consumers missing any air service now that Malev is history? Not at all, thanks to Wizz and Ryanair

      And, not technically a fifth freedom, but rather a sixth freedom case study. How have Canadian consumers and the Canadian economy benefitted from restricting Emirates and Singapore Airlines to 3 flights a week each? Air Canada doesn’t even fly to any of the destinations that EK/SQ provide Canadians connectivity to. Well, Air Canada used to fly LHR-BOM-SIN with full fifth freedom rights and lower-paid, local-domiciled crew, but not sure what happened to that…

      The reality is that protectionism is bad for consumer choice, bad for prices and bad for the economy

      1. kt74- I agree with you on both these, but I think caution is necessary when you start getting vastly different types of economies. What happens in Europe does show potential disparity. That’s why you get people from Eastern European countries flying for Ryanair throughout Western Europe. With wages being equal, someone from an Eastern country will find greater value in that amount of money than someone in the West where prices are higher.

        But when you get into the global market, then things are vastly different. You could theoretically pay someone $5 a week in a third world country and they could base them in the US to fly domestic routes at that rate. Even if paying for housing, that’s going to be a lot cheaper. So I think there’s a lot of thought that should go into what kind of labor rules should apply here. That doesn’t suggest that open skies are bad. It just means that before you open the floodgates, you want to make sure that the right laws are in place.

        As for Canada, that to me is pure protectionism and it seems to be done on fellow Star-founder Lufthansa’s behalf.

  14. I know people who have worked for Emirates airlines in Dubai. I would define it as modern-day slavery.

    Many of the workers are from India, Pakistan and other countries who are brought to Dubai for jobs. UAE’s labor laws are completely biased in favor of the company. Your employer can revoke your visa at any time for any reason, and if that happens, you have to leave the country immediately. Needless to say, employees dare not complain about anything. Many of them live in dorm rooms housing 8-10 workers each, and some don’t even have running water. This is taking place in a modern city that attracts millions of wealthy foreign tourists every year.

    In my opinion, Emirates should not be permitted to fly these routes until the UAE meets basic human rights standards. We don’t allow the sale of products made by slave labor in the US, so why do we allow the sale of such services?

    1. Jim, sounds like Emerate is run by Walmart. Yup, you have brought up an excellent point and I like your suggestion. It makes total sense and I agree. You should write your congressman and senators about this. Hell, you might even get some horse power behind you from the American airlines and their unions!

      1. I’ve heard EK conditions are on-par to what we have here in the US. Take a look at some of the crashpads outside our airports, and take a look at all the flight attendants who have second jobs. It’s a tough industry to work in.

        EY is little more restrictive, but nothing compares to QR who are responsible for much of the backlash on cheap, ill-treated labor.

    2. Jim,

      How do the pay rates and living conditions of an EK flight attendant or pilot compare to a typical Mesa or Trans States crew, or to the likes of a new f/a at a mainline US carrier?

    3. Dear Jim,

      Thank you for this comment. I can not agree with you more, especially that I am working as a ground staff in Emirates (based in Dubai) for one year and I am recruited in Europe.

      Searching the internet I found that employees of the Emirates rarely express their opinion about the company, and if they do – they do it only in few words from which people can not get the full picture of what is happening there. I can attribute this to people’s disappointment, as I have witnessed many of my colleagues resigned and never want to hear about the company again, let alone raise awareness about it on-line.

      I can also attribute this to the fact that many people do not have verbal or writing skills to express themselves and to explain what is actually happening in Emirates, especially in the airport services department (EKAS).

      In one word, there is a horror of human and labour rights there, and I totally agree with you Jim – no one should be allowed to fly to the routes where human and labour rights awareness is developed and practised, unless they respect them equally.

      Yes, it is true – Emirates do have an unfair advantage in cheap labour force, but only because they ruthlessly exploit people from troubled countries, bringing them to Dubai and promising them competitive salaries and living conditions. Truth is that recruiters never tell people the fact that the salary they signed for initially (around 3500 dirhams) will not be raised even if all the prices get up in Dubai (which actually happened this year because of expo 2020), because company is earning profit on the expense of their labour force and that is the only truth.

      Their, almost official, policy is “if you are not happy – resign” or, even worse, “you are here voluntarily”, which is not completely true, and it represents basics of modern slavery nowadays. They are stuck in their sense of power and wealth so deep, that they disregard all the suffering of their employees, treating them like replaceable animals for work. Actually, there is one very good trick here: they found the way to misuse people’s freedom of choice, always defending themselves that employees are working with them by choice. But they will never admit that they misused the fact recruiting people from troubled areas, who, then, had to leave their jobs and/or families, friends and habits, in order the change the surroundings completely and adjust to new environment. After some time of working, these people have nowhere to return to, otherwise to have to start all over again in their anyway troubled countries, which is very difficult. So most of them “choose” to stay in Dubai, with Emirates. Especially if they have families to take care of. They stay, they keep quiet and they work inhumane working shifts (the worst one is 4 by 4, 12 hours shifts with one hour break. 2 days day shift, 2 days night shift. First and last day off spent i sleeping and rest), sometimes forced to come to work on their days off, because there is a serious lack of staff at the airport. This forced overtime is especially serious violation of human and labour law, even in Dubai, whose law forbids shifts of more than 8 hours. Of course, they will never tell you about that, either.

      They will, also, give you to sign certain number of working hours per week. But you will find yourself working just a little bit more each month. And it is unpaid.

      They will tell you that you have company provided transportation to work. But they will not tell you that from company accommodation you have to change two buses, and that your 12 hours shift will have to last 14 hours, actually, when transport to and from work is included.

      They will never tell you that your night shifts will last from 12am to 10am, or 10pm to 10am, which is extremely unhealthy for human body. And they will not tell you that you will get those shifts immediately when you start working with them.

      They will never tell you that company accommodation is located faraway from down town, somewhere in the desert, where the only option for transport is taking a taxi. And they will never tell you about the poor and ugly conditions in those apartments.

      They will never tell you that new joiners will always have bigger salaries than yours, because of the “market”. But they will never tell you if new joiners have to have higher salaries in accordance with higher living standards, why, then, your salary is not raised?

      They will never tell you that in Emirates they will never protect you from aggressive and misbehaved passengers, who are so often in this part of the world. They never want any incidents, so concerned for their public image that they will rather “advise” you to resign, than to support you.

      They will never tell you that you will be sitting at your counter for 6 hours without a break. That you will have to ask your supervisor to even go to the toilet. That you will have to work with hundreds and hundreds of people per day, with excess baggage, whose seats arrangements are changed or who are denied boarding. All of them angry because there is a lack of staff, and they have to wait in the queue for hours, sometimes just pushed from one area to another, treated like cattle , just to be checked in.

      They will never tell you that there is a strong discrimination present and that you will have to work for all of those locals or supervisor’s favourite people, who will be allowed to do nothing for a much higher salary, while you will have to do all the job, especially for Ramadan, when Muslims are fasting the whole day, much better paid if they come for over time during these times.

      They will, also, never tell you that you will have to come for over times if you want to have money to survive in Dubai. They will not tell you that low salary is, actually, the way to make you come for over time (except when the overt time it is forced), because they have lack of staff, and they do not want to hire more, because they can exploit you to do the job for several people.

      They will never tell you that your management is going to harass you and molest you, humiliate you and scare you, and that you will never be able to do absolutely anything to defend yourself, because there is a insidious rule of fear. People are scared of losing their job and they just put up with everything. People are led to believe that they should be lucky to work in Emirates, such a big and successful company, and that every rebellious conduct can lead to their termination without cause. And for many of those people, especially from Asia, it is really hard to find another job in Dubai.

      HR Management is mostly foreign, British or Australian, and they do know what is happening at the airport, but they choose to terminate rebellious staff, because they want to make the least noise as they can, work the least as they can, and to enjoy really good benefits that they have. All on the expense of lower grade employee’s physical and mental health.

      They will never tell you that there will be days that you will be so stressed out, sleepy, hungry and pressurized, that you would want to resign on spot. And then you remember that you don’t have any savings and that you don’t have anything to return to. And you are stuck. This is a true modern paradigm of slavery which Emirates developed to the expert level.

      And If you try to change something, if you complain, they will call you for an endless meetings (even when you are ta home, on your private mobile numbers) with managers, they will harass you openly, they will give you warnings, they will revenge and they will make you go. Because they know that their public image is so good, that they can always replace you with tens of other people wanting to take your position.

      And they made it, actually. They have developed such a strong rule of fear in several departments that they take advantage of, that people are usually scared (situation is worsen by the fact that UAE law forbids unions and strikes) or too exhausted to ever talk about what they have been through.

      For all of these reasons, I do support the only humane and logical stand: airliners that do not respect even basics of human and labour rights, shouldn’t be allowed to fly to countries where this is not the case, and shouldn’t be presenting any fair competition to the airlines that treat their staff with dignity and respect.

      Hope that this personal experience of mine will help someone, somewhere, sometimes.

      All the best,

  15. Actually, I don’t think it’s about the US airlines at all. I think the bottom line is: either let Emirates fly where they want in the US or they will take their 100s of Boeing orders to Airbus. And vice versa. Europe is facing the same threat, Either give them the rights they want to fly anywhere in Europe they want, or risk losing all their Airbus orders to Boeing.

    Or let them fly anywhere they want in both Europe and the US — and everybody keeps their large airplane orders. Oh yeah, and they will stop on the way wherever they want too. No government is gonna tell them no because of the jobs and economic impact they have in both Europe and the US.

  16. I’d just like to say that I work for Emirates and the working conditions are very good in Dubai and across the network. All employees from top to bottom get a profit share if targets are met and in Dubai there are in house medical and dental services. We are very proud to work for a professionally run and efficient company. We are all fully aware that geo political factors will come into play as less efficient carriers try under hand means to block our path but they wont succeed. We are happy for any carrier to compete with us in any market. Our philosophy is that competition is good and keeps us on our toes. When Emirates start flying to a destination we create wealth and jobs in that market. Look how many European jobs and US jobs are reliant on our vast aircraft order book. The economics is why we will always win. Tim Clark, our Chairman has already stated internally that if the US carriers try t block fair competition we will just start flooding the US with A380’s over the next few years.

    1. I am sorry, Graham, but this sounds like an deliberate advertisement.

      Conditions may be good in some departments, but not in all of them. Some departments are just exploited.

      Staff did get profit share this year, for the first time after couple of years) and, after chairman’s announcement that company made one of the biggest profits ever, lower grade staff got only 3 week bonus, which is not much considering their basic salary of 700 euros.

      Lower grades in ground staff had very poor medical insurance until recently, when it became obvious that it is embarrassing for Emirates not to have obligatory insurance for their staff, when all the other companies have it and government is insisting on it.

      Management can not be professional and efficient if all they do is rule by fear in order to keep staff in a low profile. That is just called manipulation of people’s need to eat and survive, not a management.

  17. If the EU has an air service agreement with the UAE that is fully enforceable (ie ratified or explicitly to be honored pending ratification), then it’s the EU agreement that should apply. Otherwise, the default would be Italy’s earlier bilateral with the UAE. Either way, if fifth freedoms are allowed under whatever agreements are in place between the UAE, the U.S. and EU/Italy, nuff said. It should be cut and dry, whether Italy likes it or not.

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