Emirates airline sees more opportunities to fly in Europe

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Emirates airline [EMIRA.UL] sees an opportunity to increase direct flights from Europe to cities other than its Dubai hub, but its chief executive said he is concerned about harming struggling European carriers.

An Emirates Airlines Airbus A380-800, with Tail Number A6-EEV, lands at San Francisco International Airport, San Francisco, California, April 11, 2015. REUTERS/Louis Nastro

Emirates also is actively considering a large purchase of Airbus AIR.PA A350 aircraft and Boeing BA.N 787s to replace older Boeing 777 widebody aircraft that will begin retiring in 2017.

"We're just concluding our performance assessments," of the Airbus AIR.PA and Boeing BA.N aircraft, Clark said in an interview following a speech in New York. He declined to say when the airline would place orders.

Clark said governments, airports and organizations in Europe frustrated with local airlines have asked Emirates to start offering international service from their airports, but that he is not planning to do so.

“The opportunity is there if we want it,” he said.

“If I was to put the (Airbus super-jumbo) A380 through multiple points in Europe, we would clean out the business like a Dyson hoover,” he added, referring to a vacuum cleaner.

“I don’t want to do that.”

The remarks on Europe come as Emirates and two other Gulf carriers under attack from their U.S. rivals for allegedly competing unfairly by receiving state subsidies.

Emirates in 2013 became the first Middle Eastern carrier to fly passengers from Milan to New York.

The U.S. carriers want their government to alter its “Open Skies” agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, accusing them of lavishing their airlines with over $40 billion in subsidies and distorting competition. Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways deny the subsidy claims.

“Emirates has received $5.8 billion in subsidies and other advantages from the United Arab Emirates, a direct violation of Open Skies agreements," the Partnership for Open Skies said in a statement. It represents American Airlines Group AAL.O, United Continental Holdings UAL.N, Delta Air Lines DAL.N and numerous aviation-related labour unions.

On Wednesday Clark called the U.S. allegations “stuff and nonsense,” noting that in May Emirates said it would pay $700 million in dividends to its Dubai government owners and $300 million in bonuses to employees.

“How can that airline be subsidized if it pays its shareholders and staff a billion dollars,” he said in a speech to the Wings Club, a New York aviation association.

He said officials in Seattle, Washington, and Orlando, Florida had praised Emirates for bringing service to their cities because it boosted their economies with jobs, tourism and trade.

Reporting by Alwyn Scott; Editing by Christian Plumb