Emirates has long wanted to operate service to Germany’s capital, Berlin. With the long-awaited opening of the city’s new Brandenburg airport taking place late last year, it seems only natural that the Dubai-based airline operate service to this major European city. And yet it doesn’t. So why is this?
A maximum of four German cities
According to RBB24, Emirates is eager to operate service to the new Berlin Brandenburg Airport from its home in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. But it’s not just the airline that wants to make this happen. Indeed, German business associations and chambers of industry and commerce have advocated for an Emirates presence in Berlin. Business and tourism promotion agencies in the two countries are also wanting this service.
Unfortunately, under current regulations, an additional Emirates destination in Germany is not possible. That’s because of a longstanding bilateral air service agreement between Germany and the United Arab Emirates that limits Emirates to serving a maximum of four airports in the country.
Currently, the four German cities are Frankfurt, Munich, Düsseldorf, and Hamburg. RBB24 points out that the airline is reluctant to relocate one of its landing rights and has been instead pushing for an additional permit.
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A longstanding struggle
While Emirates and other advocates for a Berlin service may be renewing their efforts due to Brandenburg Airport’s opening, the airline has been wanting to fly to the city for years. As early as 2009, Emirates had been eyeing service to Berlin Schönefeld.
Indeed, in 2019, Arabian Business reported that the Mayor of Berlin was calling for the bilateral air service agreement to be expanded.
“The government of Berlin is in favor of direct flights to Dubai…
“…Emirates would have to give up another German market in order to fly to Berlin. As the overall demand is growing, this would of course make no commercial sense.” – Michael Müller, Mayor of Berlin via Arabian Business (2019)
Where Lufthansa fits in
Arabian Business notes that the previous Mayor of Berlin suspected the reason the bilateral air agreement between Germany and the UAE hadn’t been expanded was due to lobbying of the German federal government by Lufthansa. These suspicions were raised a decade ago, in an interview in 2011.
On this topic, Lufthansa issued the following statement:
“[I]f Emirates gave up one of [its four existing destinations], Berlin could immediately be integrated into its flight schedule. That’s a question of company strategy. Air service agreements are supposed to ensure an ambitious level of connectivity as well as an international level playing field including a fair and balanced market access for all airlines involved.”
Going even further back to 2009, Emirates had issued a public statement on its website, stating that its services to Berlin and Stuttgart “would not impact negatively on German carriers, particularly Lufthansa.” It continued by saying, “such operations would provide numerous benefits and opportunities to all concerned German stakeholders.”
Benefits and opportunities mentioned include:
- Increased direct operational expenditure as well as advertising and promotional spending in Germany.
- New tourism flows
- Positive effects on inward investment in Germany and bilateral trade between Germany and the UAE.
- New direct jobs at the airports served, and indirect jobs in surrounding areas.
Whether or not the existing agreement remains in place because of Lufthansa lobbying can be debated. However, it’s quite clear that a new Emirates service to Berlin would have a noticeable impact on the aviation landscape due to the airline’s global reach and its ability to fly travelers from all over the world to Berlin via a single stop in Dubai. Of course, Qatar Airways might be impacted just as much as Lufthansa if the new route were to happen.
We’d love to hear from you. Do you think that the Germany/UAE bilateral agreement should be amended to give Emirates additional German cities? Let us know what you think by leaving a comment.