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Is Emirates scheming against London?

Is Emirates scheming against London?

The airline says it supports a new airport in Britain, but some see an ulterior motive.

October 5, 2008 4:22 by



Last week, Emirates head Tim Clark backed plans for a new airport in the Thames estuary in Britain, adding that the new international hub at sea would enable both Heathrow and Gatwick to close, providing environmental benefits for England.

“There is no room for growth. European and Middle Eastern hubs will eventually eclipse [Heathrow],” said Clark.

The comment set off speculation of selfish, almost sinister motives behind the airline’s support for a new Thames airport.

According to the Times, “Dubai’s major infrastructure growth constitutes one of the greatest threats to Heathrow’s current leadership in international air travel.”

Dubai is set to open Terminal 3 later this month to exclusively handle Emirates. It has also started work on Al Maktoum International, a new airport which will be capable of handling 150 million passengers a year, compared to Heathrow’s 68 million.

Willie Walsh, the CEO of British Airways, said in the paper, “Emirates knows that the cleverest way of blocking expansion at Heathrow is to support a Thames estuary alternative. That way, Heathrow will decline for another decade or so until the policymakers finally admit that the offshore option is an unfundable fantasy and return their gaze to west London.

“In the interim, the hugely expanded Emirates will be scooping up Heathrow’s and the UK’s business. With shriveling connectivity, London’s position as a global business capital will slump at the same rate.”

The idea that Emirates is plotting to bring down Britain or Heathrow is certainly intriguing.

However, it’s worth noting that neither Dubai nor Heathrow – even though both rank as two of the busiest airports worldwide – are favorites in the eyes of global travelers.

According to Skytrax, a privately-owned research company in London which brings out annual reports of the world’s best airports, neither the Heathrow airport nor the Dubai airport features in the top 10.



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