HAMBURG (Reuters) - State-owned carrier Emirates Airline EMIRA.UL is not yet seeing a downturn in business and bookings for the next few months are at high levels, even as other airlines warn stuttering economies are affecting sales.
“As yet, fingers crossed, we have not seen any diminution of demand,” President Tim Clark told Reuters in an interview at Hamburg airport.
Lufthansa (LHAG.DE) last week warned on profits and said it would offer fewer seats on its planes this winter than previously expected.
In contrast, low-cost rival easyjet (EZJ.L) lifted its guidance for the year, boosted by business passengers.
Clark said booking levels were in the high 70 percent range for November, which he described as strong for the time of year.
Clark, who flew into Hamburg on an Airbus A380 superjumbo as part of the airport’s 100th anniversary celebrations, said the UK and Germany were doing well, while its Athens operations were seeing good load factors and yields.
“Our biggest single problem is fuel, but that’s coming off now, he said.
“You’ve got the euro and sterling going through the floor, and that gives us sleepless nights because so much of our income comes out of the euro zone and the UK but on the other hand, the non euro zone currencies are stronger.”
Clark said fast-growing Emirates, which is the biggest A380 customer with 90 orders placed, was not interested in taking off any planes from Air Berlin AB1.DE, which is scaling back its fleet as it strives to return to profitability.
“It’s important that they sort themselves out because Air Berlin’s a very good partner for us,” he added.
Clark also said the carrier was no further with trying to get slots at Berlin’s new airport, due to be opened next summer.
There have been reports that flag carrier Lufthansa has asked the government not to award slots to Emirates.
Lufthansa has been openly critical of Emirates, accusing it and other Gulf carriers of having an unfair advantage and distorting the market because they are backed by rich states.
“If we were flying in empty and charging silly prices and wrecking markets etc, then the case of our friends in the various airlines that seem to be opposed to us would rest, but it doesn’t,” Clark said.
“There are lots of places Lufthansa doesn’t fly to,” he said, citing places such as many Africa cities, Australia and Indonesia. “We do, and the Germans want to go there.”
Editing by Ed Lane