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Rivals take a giant step for security

Posted 25 July 2018 · Add Comment

A major step forward in UAE airline security is in the works following an agreement between the country’s two largest carriers. Alan Dron reports.

The agreement by Emirates Airline and Etihad Airways to cooperate on aviation security matters will bring the two carriers closer together in one of the most vital areas of civil aviation.
Although rivals, the two companies are well aware of the benefits of working closely in this area and the arrangement makes a great deal of sense – the two airlines, after all, have their respective hubs just 80 miles (130km) apart and both have played significant roles in propelling the UAE to its current leading position on the world aviation scene.
An indicator of the significance of the January signing of the memorandum of understanding (MoU) agreeing security cooperation could be seen from the fact that the ceremony at the Emirates Group HQ in Dubai was attended by both the chairman and chief executive of Emirates Airline & Group, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, and the vice-chairman, Etihad Aviation Group, Hamad Abdulla Al Shamsi.
“Security is one of the foremost priorities of the global aviation industry,” said Sheikh Ahmed. “Over the years, Emirates Group Security has built strong expertise and capabilities to successfully navigate the complex landscape of security risks and threats in aviation.
“Through this agreement, Emirates Group Security will cooperate with Etihad Aviation Group to share know-how and extend aviation security services in order to better handle shared challenges, which ultimately benefits travellers.”
Replying, Al Shamsi commented that the agreement was a “landmark partnership” and one which is as important symbolically as it is strategically. “As the national airline of the UAE, we have a responsibility to seek and develop greater collaboration with our major aviation partners in the UAE for the continued safety and convenience of millions of travellers worldwide.
“Security is our utmost priority and, given the current sensitive climate we operate in, it should never be underestimated.
“The signing of an MoU between the two largest aviation groups in the country will have a positive impact on local and international operations by significantly enhancing aviation security measures.”
The MoU talked of ‘exploiting joint synergies’, without going into details; neither airline would expand on the nature of this cooperation. However, Emirates Group Security will extend its security training and education programmes to Etihad Airways, to help the latter airline develop its own security escort capability.
In the longer term, Emirates security staff will also share the content and structure of its security development curriculum and work with Etihad Aviation Group in setting up an in-house security education programme – possibly with university-level accreditation.
Given last year’s agreement between Emirates Airline and Flydubai to cooperate more closely at the operational level, it is possible that the low-cost carrier may also become involved in the sharing of security activities, although there have been no comments on this to date.
The new understanding on security raises the possibility of further areas of cooperation being opened up between Emirates and Etihad.
“Aside from the fact that they are from the same stomping ground, the rumours and noise about closer cooperation between Emirates and Etihad have been around for a long time,” noted Saj Ahmad, chief analyst at London-based aviation consultancy StrategicAero Research.
“So, this security pact is certainly not surprising and, indeed, should be seen as a first step in more collaborative efforts as time goes on. When you look at the two airlines there are plenty of areas where convergence between them makes sense.”
How far any collaboration might go is uncertain, but with both being UAE carriers, some level of cooperation is not impossible. Currently, however, Etihad is going through major changes, having pulled back from its involvement in both Airberlin and Alitalia.

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