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Emirates airline chief hints at extra flights to the Gulf

THE president of Emirates has raised the prospect of the Gulf airline introducing a third daily flight from Glasgow to Dubai.

commitment: Amanda McMillan of Glasgow Airport and president of Emirates Airline Sir Tim Clark. Picture: Kirsty Anderson
commitment: Amanda McMillan of Glasgow Airport and president of Emirates Airline Sir Tim Clark. Picture: Kirsty Anderson

Sir Tim Clark said the move by Emirates to invest £2 million in a lounge for first class, business and other loyal customers at Glasgow Airport underscores the strength of the route launched by the airline 10 years ago.

Emirates now runs a twice daily service from Glasgow to Dubai and Sir Tim refused to rule out flying even more frequently if current growth in cargo and passenger numbers are maintained.

He said: "If you look back at the 10 years of operation [and] the way we have grown our business, it stands testament to the fact the route is very, very strong for us - both passenger and cargo.

"And it continues to grow for us, so [in] the next three to five years, a third frequency here, or a bigger aircraft altogether, is a distinct possibility.

"And the fact we have spent so much money on this fabulous lounge is kind of testament to the fact we are here for the long term."

Sir Tim highlighted the importance of the route for Scottish firms in building business links in the Middle East and beyond. He stated Emirates' analysis shows the route has been used frequently by a mix of tourist and business travellers, as well as those travelling for education and to visit relatives, since the early days of the service.

Sir Tim said: "Those segments grew, almost exponentially. In the past they had been restricted through physical impediments like Heathrow, I suppose, [and] going over to intermediate hubs like Amsterdam and Frankfurt. But importantly, those carriers do not fly to the places that we fly to, with a level of production and frequency [that we do]."

"So, if you wanted to start doing business in oil and gas, in Africa, Rwanda, Angola, Dar es Salaam, Entebbe, Nairobi, wherever, Emirates was a facilitator, with a two-hour stop-over.

"With the two flights a day you can get to just about anywhere east of Dubai far more easier, and in many respects with a better value proposition in terms of price and everything else, than my competitor group. In the end, it just opened the door."

And Sir Tim said he was unfazed about the challenge brought by the two other Gulf airlines which operate services from Scotland to the Middle East.

Earlier this month Etihad Airways announced it will commence its first Scottish operation with flights from Edinburgh Airport to Abu Dhabi next June, while Qatar Airways began operating its route from Edinburgh to Doha in May.

Sir Tim, who said the company could not let the chance to sponsor the Emirates Arena as part of Glasgow 2014 "pass us by", welcomes the challenge.

He said: "I hope there is enough for all. We'll see. The government that owns us are particularly proud that the Arab carriers are making a name for themselves and the countries they represent in foreign countries.

"The fact that the three Gulf carriers are now in Scotland is no bad thing - [it's] great for the consumers. We are highly competitive against each other but the products are generally quite good."

Meanwhile, Sir Tim said the aviation industry has to work harder to convince the Treasury to scrap air passenger duty. He said the industry must prove to ministers that the wealth this move would create must exceed the estimated £2 billion the government earns from the tax. And, while he said Scotland could be a "strong entity in its own right", he declined to give a definitive view on independence.

Amanda McMillan, managing director of Glasgow Airport, said Emirates' investment in the new lounge is a "tremendous show of commitment to Glasgow and to Scotland".

She stated: "For us, this was a crucial step. We went double-daily. We've got business passengers and first class passengers using the service and the airport every day, and they've now, I think, squared the circle and delivered the lounge that matches that tremendous service.

"I don't think you can under-estimate the significant of Emirates. I don't think anybody 10 years ago would have understood the massive potential it had for this airport, this city, and for Scotland. If you look at the exports that are going out every day on that aircraft, 720 seats every day to the Middle East and beyond, they have essentially created another gateway to the world from Scotland, and they have done that in style."

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