Momentum for an Emirates/Etihad merger has been building in recent months. After years of publicly rebuking any suggestion that the two Gulf carriers might join forces, the Emirates CEO appears to have modified his opinion in recent comments to CNN and left open the possibility of a takeover occurring at some point in the not-so-distant future.
Emirates has a long history of officially dismissing the idea of an Emirates and Etihad Airways merger, but in recent comments at the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) event in Dubai, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum tempered the Gulf carrier’s position somewhat. The airline executive said he still doesn’t believe that combining the two competing airlines would make sense right now, but he allowed that there may very well be a time in the near future when a merger would be in both companies’ best interests.
“There is nothing to merit it,” Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum told CNN in an interview last week. “We’ve been cooperating and there is a relationship between the airlines but nothing towards a merger. I don’t know what will happen after the next 5-10 years but as we speak today I know by next year there will be no such merger, because if you look at the two models we are exactly the two similar models and they are too big airlines to put them together so it’s better to leave them.”
Despite growing anticipation of a merger announcement, the Emirates chief’s remarks aren’t exactly a signal that a deal is in the works. Still, Paddle Your Own Canoe’s Mateusz Maszczynski points out that some airline industry insiders view the subtle clarification from Emirates senior management as a likely timeline for an expected takeover of rival Etihad Airways. This position has some basis given Emirates’ previously stark denials that a merger would ever be considered.
“There are many areas that the airlines could work together on like procurement,” Emirates president Sir Tim Clark said as recently as October of 2017. “But we have to go the first jump first to understand what it is we could do and I‘m simply the manager of one of the businesses.”
Clark had originally also expressed doubt that a partnership with budget carrier FlyDubai would benefit either airline. He has since come around to embracing successful agreement to use the state-owned airlines as a sort of regional affiliate. Clark’s (since tempered) resistance to working with FlyDubai, in many ways, mirrored his earlier dismissals of the idea of a joining of Emirates and Etihad Airways.
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