Swiss International Airlines joins group alleging Gulf carriers’ unfair competition

Swiss International Airlines has joined the growing number of US and European carriers who have alleged that Arabian Gulf rivals have used unfair business practices to become major global players.

In a statement to The National, Swiss International said it believes that access to liberalised markets, such as Europe, should be “contingent to adhering to fair competition rules”.

“All competitors should live up to the principle of equal and fair opportunity. Distortive practices such as subsidies harm liberal markets and competition.

“Accordingly, liberalised markets must take according measures to maintain an undistorted and competitive market.”

The Swiss carrier is owned by Germany’s Lufthansa, which is a vocal critic of Gulf airlines.

US and European carriers have urged their respective regulators to address the issue of unfair competition. They claim that Emirates Airline, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways receive subsidies from their governments.

Lufthansa and Air France have called for a halt to approving new routes for Gulf airlines until the issue is resolved.

Last week, James Hogan, the Etihad chief executive, and Tim Clark, the Emirates president, were both in Washington DC to hit back at the claims made against them by Delta, United and American airlines, and their trade unions in the US.

The US airlines had prepared a 55-page document which they released in late January detailing allegations of unfair government subsidy and other financial incentives that they claim were in breach of open skies agreement. Last week, Mr Clark categorically denied Emirates had received government help when it made losses on fuel hedges.

The European Commission has also stepped into the spat.

During a meeting of transport ministers from the European Union this month, the French and German representatives asked the EC to address the subject of government subsidies during discussions over a commercial aviation agreement with the Gulf later this year.

Mr Hogan will be in London this Thursday to address the Aviation Club of the UK and he is expected to raise the issue of competition within the European airline industry.

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