The CEO of Ethiopian AirlinesÂ , Tewolde Gebremariam,Â has warned that Gulf carriers could â€œeat us for lunchâ€ unless there is a concerted effort by African airlines to increase market share from the fast-growing continent.
Speaking at the Aviation Club in London, Tewolde said â€œWe have tremendous competition coming from the Gulf carriers. Dubai is only three and half hours away from Addis, Abu Dhabi and Doha are the same. They have been doing very well and now Africa is also a strategic focus.
â€œWe see the centre of gravity moving from Europe to the Middle East and especially the Gulf.â€
He said that Europeâ€™s failure to respond to the threat by the Gulf carriers had led to this change.
â€œEurope has been the oldest and most successful for hub and spoke operations with airports like Heathrow, Frankfurt, Amsterdam and Paris. For passengers travelling from south and north America to Europe, Africa and Middle East and Asia the only way was through Europe, but now that hub and spoke is moving to the Middle East and unfortunately and inadvertently European governments and politicians are helping them move the centre of gravity to the hubs in the Middle East by making it very difficult for airlines to operate in Europe.
â€œTaxation is one factor, airport congestion is another,â€ Tewolde said. â€œAs a result airlines are finding it very difficult to fly to Europe. Heathrow is one of the most congested airports. Ethiopian wants to fly to Heathrow twice a day, but we are only able to fly six flights a week. We canâ€™t even get a daily service.
A third runway at Heathrow has been discussed for years yet Dubai was able to build Dubai World Central Airport with six runways in short order.
â€œFrankfurt Airport has put a policeman in the ATC tower to ensure no flight leaves after 10 or 11 oâ€™clock at night, emission trading is another problem for all of us. Labour unions are very difficult for European carriers and they also have to compete with the Gulf carriers and small African carriers like us also. The tax regime in the Gulf is different â€“ no tax at all – but knowing this again, there is no remedy for small carriers in Africa and also Europe, so inadvertently Europe is helping the Middle East carriers.
Tewolde said that the Gulf countries are treating aviation as a strategic national asset.
â€œThe contribution of aviation to social economic development is recognized and it is the pride of governments, but other governments and even the continent of Africa is not recognizing this unfortunately.
Source:Â Walta Information Center