Germany keeps Emirates in check over expansion

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Germany will not grant Middle Eastern carrier Emirates rights to service additional cities within the country, the latest development in a spat over access to German-Gulf routes.

There is no need to extend the existing bilateral air transport agreement between Germany and the United Arab Emirates, said a German transport ministry spokesman.

This agreement limits the airline's number of landing points in Germany to four. Emirates would be free to add Stuttgart and Berlin, said the spokesman, but would then need to give up two of its existing destinations. He added that the arrangement is based "on the size of the mutual home markets".

The vast majority of UAE passenger flights operate from Abu Dhabi and Dubai and, to a lesser extent, Sharjah. Germany's flag carrier Lufthansa flies to Abu Dhabi and Dubai from Frankfurt and Munich.

"We are [still] hopeful that our long-standing request will receive German government support," responds Emirates. "The economic case for these flights [to Berlin and Stuttgart] has never been stronger."

While German chancellor Angela Merkel supported the Emirates order for an additional 32 Airbus A380s in Berlin last year, the transport ministry said the existing bilateral arrangement was "already very liberal".

Although Emirates can only fly to four destinations within Germany but there are no limits to the frequency of flights or what model of aircraft is deployed. In other words, capacity is unlimited.

Emirates' business model is to collect long-haul passengers from regional airports and ferry them through Dubai to their destinations - but not to use central hubs in different world regions.

The airline has not indicated whether it will expand capacity to its current German destinations, possibly with the A380. It serves Munich, Frankfurt, Dusseldorf and Hamburg.

"We are constantly considering a wide range of commercial opportunities and Germany is one of Emirates' most important commercial markets," says an Emirates spokesman. "We are sure wherever the Emirates A380 are deployed, they will be welcomed by our passengers."

Munich airport has confirmed that it is equipping its Terminal 1 stand 113 - which Emirates is using, among other carriers - for the A380. The decision to install a third passenger bridge by the end of this year was taken earlier this month.