Emirates is open to co-operation with rival Etihad Airways in areas including procurement, according to president Tim Clark.
Both United Arab Emirates-based airlines have competed to build global networks from their respective hubs in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, even as they battled overcapacity, security concerns and a fall in regional business travel.
“I think there is value to be had working more closely with them,” Clark told Reuters, adding there might be concerns from regulators in some foreign markets.
“There are many areas that the airlines could work together on, like procurement, but we have to go the first jump to understand what it is we could do and I‘m simply the manager of one of the businesses,” he said. “It is my superiors who have to make that call, not me.”
When asked if the pair could pursue a merger along the lines of Europe’s Air France and KLM, Clark said: “I don’t think that will be the case but it is not my call, really. It is whatever [the shareholders] may do in the future.”
Emirates is owned by the Dubai government while Etihad is owned by the Abu Dhabi government.
Etihad, which has been hit by loss-making investments in Air Berlin and Alitalia, said in response to Clark’s comments that it was common for airlines to leverage in-country expertise and economies of scale.
“We constantly seek opportunities for innovative collaboration with other organisations, where it makes business and commercial sense,” an Etihad spokesman said.
Emirates, a bigger airline than Etihad, is the largest customer for the double-decker Airbus A380, an aircraft facing slowing production rates due to a lack of sales.
Clark said an order for more was under consideration, adding that any A380 order would help replace 25 A380s due to be retired in the mid-2020s.
He did not give any details on the likely volume of any order or whether a deal would be signed at the Dubai air show next month.
“Airbus would love us to do that but we’ve got a few things to sort out first so I‘m not sure that we’ll get there for the air show,” he said.
The airline is separately looking at the Airbus A350 and the Boeing 787 Dreamliner to meet its needs in the 250-300 seat market, Clark said.
Emirates cancelled an order for 70 A350s in 2014.
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