Emirates Airline president Tim Clark has expressed strong concern over the increasing power of airline alliances, and insists that membership would stem the Dubai-based carrier's development.

Addressing the European Aviation Club in Brussels on 12 November, Clark highlighted the drive towards consolidation and suggested that the issue of airline competition risked becoming a "forgotten story" of the economic recession.

"Our fear is that aviation's economic recovery in the coming years will see a handful of dominant alliances able to fundamentally alter the competitive landscape in many markets for consumers and unaligned airlines," he says.

"Emirates is big enough now to look after itself but we strongly believe protecting the interests of consumers requires governments and regulators to resist opportunistic and self-interested calls from some in our industry to bend fair competitive norms and structures.

"It is a difficult operating environment for all airlines but certain approvals for consolidation or the granting of immunities for alliances - which otherwise would be viewed with significant scepticism - must be challenged."

He underscores Emirates' resistance to alliance membership, saying that this would become an "artificial brake" on the carrier's business plans, and views 'white spots' lacking alliance coverage as "important drivers for competition and consumer choice".

While consolidation can be justified in some cases, and the failure of financially-unviable carriers is necessary, Clark says that the combination, when taken alongside alliance power, "concerns Emirates".

Clark is particularly irked about the influence of Star Alliance. He cites examples where authorities in Canada and Germany appear to have acted to defend Star carriers against Emirates - and ridicules suggestions that such competition could damage the alliance.

"Hurt Star Alliance?" he says. "How do you hurt a 25-member mega-alliance? And where is the consumer's voice in such a statement?"

While the three major alliances have already established a firm presence, and are succeeding in gaining anti-trust immunity, Clark fears that powerful airline groups will continue to cite exceptional circumstances in order to seek "dispensation to dominate more markets".

He insists that competition regulators must ensure that a "balance is struck" between consolidation, the clean-out of unviable carriers, and "creation of 21st century monopolies".

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news