The UK’s air passenger duty (APD) stealth tax on aviation has the potential to damage travel to the Middle East, according to one of Emirates’ senior directors.
Richard Vaughan, divisional senior vice-president for commercial operations worldwide, said he was being cautious about the impact of the levy – which came into effect on November 1 – but insisted that forward bookings were “still very strong”.
“Any tax increase will have an eventual impact [on business], I just wish the government would spend the tax on what they say they are collecting it for.
“It’s like road tax. You’d be comfortable about it if you knew they were spending it on improving roads, but we know they don’t.”
Speaking to ABTN at the World Travel Market in London, Vaughan said Emirates’ future was rosy, and predicted continued growth in 2011.
Last month the Dubai-based airline posted a half-year profit (until September 31, 2010) of $951 million, more than three times up on the same period in 2009.
“We are seeing growth – both leisure and corporate – in all regions of the world, and the UK is no exception, it is solid.
"Our forward bookings for the next three months are above target, and at the moment I can’t see anything on the horizon changing.
"Every thing appears to be rosy, though that’s not to say we are complacent. We know disaster could strike at any time.”
Vaughan said corporate travel was improving in all the world’s major regions, including the UK, which economists believe is lagging behind other heavyweight growth markets.
He said business travel out of the UK’s northern regions had been boosted by the introduction of the A380 superjumbo out of Manchester on September 1.
And he said the service – which has just celebrated its 20th anniversary – had been a “huge success”.
He predicted Birmingham would also benefit from an A380 in the future, though he would not say when exactly.
The service between the Midlands and the Middle East – which celebrates its 10th anniversary next month – was recently boosted by the introduction of a larger Boeing 777 aircraft.
He said business out of Glasgow was “going gangbusters” but said the Scottish airport was more likely to see an increase in frequency rather than the introduction of a superjumbo.
Vaughan poured scorn on any suggestion that the Middle Eastern airline had plans to join an airline alliance.
“We will remain independent; we are not interested in the alliances,” he said.
“There has been a lot of talk around the world about cartels and illegal business practice, but alliances get round that.
“Alliances are a gathering of the weak. It’s like having ten husbands or wives; it’s difficult to please everyone.
"I’d like to think we are quicker on our feet. We don’t have to worry about up-selling our partners because we don’t have any.”