UAE and France signed (30-Jan-2011) a bilateral MoU on 26-Jan-2011 to increase air services between the countries. The parties agreed to add 22 weekly passenger frequencies, increasing the frequencies available to designated airlines to 57 per week. Furthermore, in addition to Paris, Nice, Lyon, Marseilles and Toulouse, the delegations agreed to add Bordeaux as a sixth point of destination in France for the services operated by the designated airlines of the UAE. The UAE delegation designated Air Arabia, in addition to Emirates and Etihad Airways as UAE national airlines under the MoU. [more]
UAE and France sign bilateral air services MoU
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Air France-Singapore Airlines partnership talks highlight lack of Gulf airline penetration in France
The growth of Gulf airlines continues to force competitors to innovate and adapt to the new market, sometimes forgoing long-standing partnerships and business views. The next response may be a partnership between Air France and Singapore Airlines, the two of which are reportedly in talks.
Such a partnership would be symbolically significant. Both are anchor members of opposite alliances – Star and SkyTeam – and are bitter about the growth of Gulf airlines. Air France is boisterous in its remarks while Singapore Airlines keeps complaints out of the public space. Air France has not been silenced by a partnership with Etihad; one that appears to have never been fully consummated. Singapore Airlines’ Air France talks come at the same time as SIA plans to implement a JV with the Lufthansa Group.
The view from SIA appears to be that France is a significant market, and connections from Lufthansa Group hubs are not sufficient. As Air France and SIA move towards a partnership, Gulf airlines continue to be denied French traffic rights: they have one quarter as many flights to France as to the UK. Air France has cut Southeast Asia capacity but KLM has grown, indicating that the group is seeking new strategic solutions.
Brexit follow-up Part 3: Gulf airlines, Turkish lose UK ally in M/E talks as protectionism spreads
The Brexit referendum produced a vote for the United Kingdom to leave the EU, although this process has not yet been formally invoked. In the scope of aviation, one outcome is the potential loss of the UK in shaping air service agreement negotiations. The UK has been a liberalising voice, one that often counterbalanced more protectionist views from France and Germany. The UK is often able to galvanise the smaller EU states too.
The EU now has mandates to negotiate open skies with states, including the UAE, Qatar, Turkey and the ASEAN bloc. The UAE and Qatar, home to the three Gulf network airlines, are expected to produce the most contentious negotiations. France and Germany will surely takes cues from Air France and Lufthansa to impede Gulf growth. In this light there are questions about whether the talks are genuinely motivated, or merely designed to draw out the discussion and thereby not produce any additional traffic rights while under negotiation.
What Air France and Lufthansa need is a real, lasting solution, rather than persevering Canute-like with stonewalling. Although a partnership seems logical, they may have waited too long. The Gulf airlines have found that they can succeed on their own.