Emirates has today announced plans to increase services to the French cities of Lyon and Paris, bringing the total number of flights to the French capital to 21 per week. But with the announcement comes a rumour that Airbus struck a deal with the French government in order to win a crucial order from the Dubai-based Emirates which is fully owned by the Dubai government.
In January, Emirates offered Toulouse-based aircraft manufacturer Airbus a critical lifeline for its A380 superjumbo. With senior executives at the aerospace giant failing to secure any new orders for the A380, the very future of the project looked seriously to be in doubt.
Even Emirates, by far the largest operator of the A380 with 108 of the double-decker aircraft currently in its fleet, seemed reluctant to commit to placing a new order even as Airbus offered a number of incentives and efficiency improvements. Emirates stunned many observers at the Dubai Air Show in 2017 when it snubbed Airbus in favour of multi-billion order for Boeing 787-10 aircraft.
Then came a $16billion USD order for 36 new Airbus A1380’s – the first of which will be delivered in 2020. The contract, made up of 20 confirmed orders and options for 16 further A380’s, was signed in the presence of France’s Prime minister, Edouard Philippe on the sidelines of the World Government Summit which was held in Dubai earlier this year.
According to reports in the French newspaper Le Figaro, the Emirati airline managed to secure increased traffic rights for services between Dubai and France as part of the Airbus deal. Le Figaro claims French aviation authorities were able to make available slots which had been awarded to fellow UAE-based carrier, Etihad but never used by the struggling airline.
A source told the newspaper that while Air France would be fiercely against giving Emirates any further traffic rights, final approval could be pushed through due to a power vacuum at the Franco-Dutch airline.
“Jean-Marc Janaillac (the former CEO of Air France who was forced to resign earlier this year after failing to win support from employees) would have rushed into the office of the President of the Republic to defend himself,” the source reportedly said.
“But with an interim boss tasked with finding a successor in Janaillac, the group is unable to influence the public authorities.”
The Emirates A380 deal will have secured thousands of jobs for many years to come – not only in France but across Europe where parts of the massive aircraft are made. For example, the jet’s giant wings are made in Wales, UK while the rear fuselage is manufactured in Hamburg, Germany and the tailplane is made in Cadiz, Spain. The parts are then carefully transported to Toulouse where they are assembled.
There have also been suggestions that the Qatari government negotiated a similar deal for increased French traffic rights for the state-owned carrier, Qatar Airways when it made a huge fighter jet order.