Emirates wants to operate a twice-daily A380 service to Amsterdam Schiphol as soon as possible, according to CEO Tim Clark.
A double-daily superjumbo service to the city would be good for the Dutch economy, Clark told Holland’s Financieele Dagblad.
He said: “Five hundred extra passengers. Why would Schiphol not want that?”
Currently, Emirates is by far most successful of the three Gulf carriers — the other two being Etihad and Qatar Airways — and is the only one to operate the A380 into Amsterdam.
Emirates’ current schedule sees the A380 depart Schiphol at 1430 and arrive in Dubai the following day at 0015.
Its second flight is operated by a B777-300ER, departing at 2200 and reaching Dubai the next day at 0735 — it is this service which Emirates wishes to upgrade to an A380.
It is likely that Schiphol would welcome another A380 flight. Currently, just Emirates and China Southern operate the superjumbo into Amsterdam, while KLM has no A380s in its fleet.
But for prestige reasons, the Dutch government is not so enthusiastic and has so far not approved Emirates’ wishes.
As one aviation expert told Business Traveller: “It is politically very sensitive. The Dutch government is eager to protect Schiphol.”
For “Schiphol”, you can also include the national airline KLM (which works closely with Schiphol) and is part of the Air France-KLM group and not in the best of financial health right now.
KLM is a sixth-freedom airline and that means it must sustain a healthy global network in order to survive in the long-term.
Most KLM passengers are transferring at, rather than travelling to/from, Amsterdam. And Schiphol, with its myriad shopping opportunities and other attractions, is specifically designed to handle transfer traffic.
So if Emirates, also a sixth-freedom carrier, was to expand at Amsterdam it would threaten KLM’s market share not only to the Gulf but also to a multitude of destinations in Africa, India and throughout the Far East.
Remember, KLM stands to lose long-haul passengers and these are considered the most lucrative for any airline.
Emirates has succeeded more than almost any other foreign carrier at Schiphol, which is dominated by KLM. It has succeeded thanks to the prestige of the A380 (a hit with almost all nationalities) plus Emirates’ diverse global network.
Because KLM has such a grip on the Amsterdam market, Tim Clark fears for the future of Schiphol.
He is quoted as saying: “What happens if it continues to go badly with Air France-KLM? If KLM benefits [from a lack of competiton] in this way, you will allow Schiphol to go down with the Titanic.”
But such is the strength of feeling in Holland regarding Amsterdam Schiphol and KLM that the Dutch pilots’ union has stepped in.
Steven Verhagen, president of union VNV, wants the Dutch government to block Emirates’ application for a second A380 service.
According to zakenreisnieuws.nl, he said Verhagan is not against competition: “On the contrary, competition stimulates KLM which is good for consumers.”
But, he argues that competition must be based on a level-playing field. He also notes that in difficult times, foreign carriers may abandon Schiphol “but KLM doesn’t have this luxury”.