The Gulf Mega-Merger: Why It Will Never Happen

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Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker recently revealed at the Arab Air Carrier Association’s annual meeting in Algiers/Algeria that it has been his dream to merge his airline with Emirates. It was only after it became clear to him that such a plan could not be implemented, that Qatar Airways decided to join the Oneworld alliance. Al Baker did not specify why he did not pursue the idea further, but Emirates Airline President Tim Clark has now explained the problem to Aviation Week: great idea economically, but impossible to push through politically.

Clark believes a potential merger of Emirates and Qatar Airways would have no chance of getting regulatory approval by European authorities. “You put the two together and you would face the most formidable international airline group that has ever been formed,” Clark says. “That’s why it will never happen.”

“Can you imagine the Europeans allowing two or three of the Gulf carriers coming together and then moving into Europe,” Clark asks. He reveals that the two sides never engaged in talks, but that Al Baker had the idea “has not escaped us.” A merger would have had “seismic repercussions in the aeropolitical framework,” also because it would be “a formidable economic proposition.”

All three Gulf big carriers are already facing serious political opposition in Europe, with European legacy carriers trying to keep governments from allocating more traffic rights to them. However, with Etihad involved in Air Berlin and Aer Lingus, as well as Qatar’s decision to join Oneworld, the picture appears to be slowly changing, as the three carriers are becoming more integrated in the existing structures of the international air transport industry.

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