Airline acquisitions 'not worth it' says Emirates boss

Sir Maurice Flanagan says Dubai carrier has no plans to change course.
Sir Maurice Flanagan, executive vice chairman of Emirates Airline
Sir Maurice Flanagan, executive vice chairman of Emirates Airline


Sir Maurice Flanagan, executive vice chairman and one of the founders of Emirates Airline, said he believed chasing stakes in smaller airlines was “just not worth it” and he hoped the Dubai airline would continue to operate on a solo basis.

While Flanagan did not rule out codesharing agreements, such as its linkup with US carrier JetBlue, he believed Emirates’ acquisition of a stake in SriLankan Airlines proved to be a negative experience for the carrier and it was not one he would like to see it repeat.

“Absolutely not… It eats up an enormous amount of senior management time,” he said in relation to acquiring stakes in smaller carriers. “They want you to develop that airline to be like Emirates.”

While Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways has bought up stakes in a number of international carriers, such as Ireland’s Aer Lingus, Germany’s Air Berlin and Air Seychelles, Flanagan said he hoped the Dubai airline did not follow suit.

“To do that, you have to base staff there and have senior managers going to and fro... It’s just not worth it,” he added.

The airline chief also ruled out joining any international aviation alliances, such as Oneworld or Star Alliance.

“We would never dream of it,” he said. “You have to compromise too many things, including the IT system to confirm with theirs and that is the nervous system of the business…. You just wouldn’t do that.”

While alliances and acquisitions have been ruled out, Flanagan believed Emirates can still pursue a global footprint, as evident by its new advertising and marketing campaign – branded ‘Hello Tomorrow’ – which is designed to portray it as a truly global business player.

“It is very global,” he said. “It also has an internal effect as it shows the staff we are growing all the time and tomorrow we will bigger and better all the time.”

As evidence of this, the Dubai carrier has launched new routes to Copenhagen, Geneva, Dublin, Buenos Ares, Seattle, Dallas, Lusaka, Harare, St Petersburg, Baghdad and Rio de Janeiro in the last year, while Ho Chi Min City, Washington, Barcelona and Lisbon are also set to be added to the its global reach from Dubai.

“We cover practically everywhere you care to mention now… With the aircraft we have, we can connect any two points in the world, from east to west and north to south,” he said proudly.

Emirates will issue its latest half year financial later this week. The full exclusive interview with Sir Maurice Flanagan will be published by Arabian Business on Sunday, May 13.

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