Tuesday, 1 March 2011
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When the UAE’s ambassador to Canada says that negotiating new air links has been a “protracted and frustrating” process, he isn’t kidding. Half a decade of quarrelling reached boiling point last autumn in the form of a full-scale diplomatic crisis, with Canada’s military being booted off Emirati soil, and its citizens being hit by visa entry fees of up to C$1,000.
On the surface, the dispute hinges on UAE demands that two of its carriers – Emirates and Etihad – be allowed to increase flight frequencies to Toronto, as well as add new links to Calgary and Vancouver. But at stake is far more than the competitive threat such expansion poses to flag carrier Air Canada. The web of protectionism blocking a deal actually stretches beyond North America, spanning the Atlantic and ensconcing aviation’s former masters, the European legacy carriers....