Abdul Wahab Teffaha, secretary general of the Arab Air Carriers Organisation, was in Washington DC late last month addressing the International Aviation Club, and there was a bit of extra spice in the timing, coming just a few months after Ulrich Schulte-Strathaus - his counterpart at European network carrier grouping the Association of European Airlines addressing the same forum cited the growth of the Gulf carriers while calling for ICAO to help create a level competitive arena.
Schulte-Strathaus in January said the three major Gulf carriers' huge commitment to fleet expansion made him uneasy."In a market of double-digit growth, airlines that have long-haul aircraft fleets which dwarf those of their international competitors are being driven by a policy which is not compatible with that of the USA and Europe [and other countries]," he added.
This has already prompted responses from Qatar Airways and Emirates, and Teffaha used the opportunity of his speech to provide a robust defence of expansion in the region. Here is a flavour with a couple of extracts from the speech.
"The land of the Pharaohs was the one to create mythology. Apparently, this art is being perfected with regards to Arab aviation by some of our neighbors in Europe. Lots of myths have been created. That doesn't make them true, such as a myth of over-capacity although history shows that Arab airlines have been meeting their expansion with actual growth, our average capacity deployment per aircraft is above 200 seats. Our load factor is in the high 70's , year round.
The second myth is that we are out to conquer the world of aviation. The reality is the only conqueror in aviation is the customer. If an airline was able to respond to the requirements of customers by providing him or her with value for money and a good service, then that customer will definitely put his or her confidence in that airline. If your cost base is high, if your obligations are making you slow to move, and if you're losing your competitive edge, beware that the customer is not a charity, and will not stick with you as an act of kindness."
And here is another extract:
"Yes! Our market share is growing on a global scale, but do you think we do that by subsidising customers? Do financial institutions give the excellent ratings they do to Arab airlines if these airlines are throwing money at their customers by selling below cost? And even for the few government owned Arab airlines that do not publish their financial reports as yet; do you think that any of the Arab governments accept subsidising travelers between Europe and Asia? Or any other traveler for this matter. Our competitiveness doesn't stem from government subsidies nor is it a bi-product of national or vertical integration. Arab airlines competitiveness starts with what technology and geography enabled us to do: To provide truly global connections with one stop."