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Middle Eastern carriers expand in the Americas

By control on September 18, 2012

Etihad Airways CEO James Hogan revealed that the United Arab Emirates-based carrier is eying South America for growth and will launch its first route to the region — to Brazil — on June 1, 2013. This announcement comes on the heels of rival carrier Emirates SkyCargo’s September 12 commencement of Boeing 777-300 ER service to Washington Dulles International Airport.

Hogan said strong trade volumes between Brazil and the UAE will propel Etihad’s upcoming route to Sao Paulo-Guarulhos International Airport from its Abu Dhabi hub. The daily route will also provide Brazil will connectivity to the GCC states, the Indian subcontinent and key Asian markets, he explained.

“Brazil is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, now ranking as the sixth largest since overtaking the UK in 2011,” Hogan said. He revealed that bilateral trade between Brazil and the UAE is valued at approximately $3 billion annually, “with authorities aiming to lift this to $10 billion within five years.”

Hogan also cited Arab-Brazilian Chamber of Commerce statistics, which showed trade volumes between Brazil and the Arab world reaching $25 billion in 2011. Experts project this figure to increase by 10 percent to 15 percent this year, Hogan added. To address this growth, as well as passenger demand, Hogan disclosed that he’s in talks with unnamed South American carriers about potential partnerships.

Surging trade volumes between the UAE and the Americas also drove Emirates’ decision to launch service to Washington, D.C. In a press release, the carrier said that the new route will address the 113 percent, year-over-year, increase in UAE exports to the U.S. witnessed in 2011.

Transport equipment and machinery parts are projected to be the key commodities exported from Emirates’ Dubai International Airport hub, while household goods and garments are expected to top the list of imports to Washington, D.C.; pharmaceuticals and electronics are likely to be seen on both trade lanes, officials for the carrier revealed.

Orhan Abbas, Emirates Airline’s senior vice president of commercial operations for the Americas, called the U.S. a “strategically important market” for the carrier — “a fact underpinned by our recent period of significant growth,” he added. February and March saw the launch of daily Emirates service to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, respectively.

Emirates Airline President Tim Clark said that the carrier’s push into the U.S. has economic implications far outside of the Americas. “Our U.S. flights help to open new markets that the business community is reliant upon, as the globalization of commerce is dependent upon transportation for passengers and cargo,” he said. “This Emirates service will facilitate trade and promote tourism to the capital region from around the world, including the Middle East, which generated over 100,000 visitors last year alone.”

Like Etihad, South America is also on the carrier’s radar. Emirates SkyCargo launched daily, linked service to Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro in January, a route that complements the carrier’s thrice-weekly freight service to Sao Paulo.

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