Is this a war on Gulf carriers?

It is no secret that a feud has been going on for a long time between commercial airlines from the United States and Canada and Gulf-based airlines such as Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways and especially Emirates Airlines.

The US and Canadian commercial airlines consider some Gulf-based airlines to be government owned and subsidized ventures. They believe that the Gulf-based carriers do not incur the normal operating costs of other airlines and, therefore, that there is unfair competition which threatens the rival airline companies.

The opposing airlines try to counter the domination of Gulf-based carriers by raising issues against them. However, their complaints to the respective Gulf governments have failed to yield significant results.

Now, in the ongoing trade war, Gulf airlines companies are targeted again following the decision of the US Department of Homeland Security to ban laptops and other large electronic devices from being carried in the cabins of the airplanes of some Middle Eastern carriers flying to the United States.

There are also reports that Britain and Canada plan to follow suit. Some interpret this move as a preemptive strike against the strong Gulf aviation companies as part of a policy that aims to protect the US economy.

There have been previous instances of commercial wars between the European Airbus and US Boeing companies concerning competition issues, as well as similar disputes faced by companies like “Huawei” for competing against American companies.

This latest change in the rules of the game will benefit US carriers under the pretext of a policy of countering terrorism, which cannot be rejected or challenged

Hussein Shobokshi

Awaiting the response

The question now is: How will Emirates Airlines respond? The company is known for its creative action and for facing challenging problems. Its response will be very important, as it is likely that other affected companies will probably adopt and emulate its actions.

Emirates realizes the importance and seriousness of the electronics ban that affected it adversely following a 35 percent cancellation of flight reservations soon after the announcement of the ban was made. Emirates Airlines, the largest UAE carrier, is a world-class airline that has introduced routes to cover the needs of others.

For example, its daily flight from Dubai to Sao Paulo in Brazil is in fact service for the large Lebanese community there and the Los Angeles and San Francisco sectors serve the Indian and Pakistani communities in California.

The trade war with its protectionist cover also includes Turkish Airlines, another airline that has captured a significant market share. At the moment, Asian aviation giants that compete fiercely for flying across the Pacific Ocean and have strongly influenced and successfully competed with American aviation companies, are not included in the electronics ban. However, they may be targeted at a later stage.

The US aviation market is a formidable one and American authorities make it difficult for other airlines to fly to the US. This latest change in the rules of the game will benefit US carriers under the pretext of a policy of countering terrorism, which cannot be rejected or challenged.

A practical response from Emirates Airlines must be creative and innovative. Will it resort to technological changes with support from companies like Google, Cisco, Apple and Oracle to offer computing solutions from Cloud Computing with fixed devices on the plane to overcome the US decision to ban electronic devices?

As history teaches us, innovative solutions come from impossible situations.

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on April 03, 2016.
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(Hussein Shobokshi is a Businessman and prominent columnist. Shobokshi hosts the weekly current affairs program Al Takreer on Al Arabiya, and in 1995, he was chosen as one of the "Global Leaders for Tomorrow" by the World Economic Forum. He received his B.A. in Political Science and Management from the University of Tulsa. His twitter handle is @husseinshoboksh.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:53 - GMT 06:53
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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