Emirates CEO defends continued flights to Russia, says there is no UAE ban

Emirates Airline has defended its decision to continue flights to Russia even as other international carriers halted service, saying the decisions of citizens and the government should not be confused.

Speaking to CNBC on Tuesday, the chairman and chief executive of Dubai’s state-owned airline said it had received no instructions from the government to cease operations and therefore had a duty to passengers to maintain his service.

“At least we are doing a job. We are connecting people between the two countries,” Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum said.

“We shouldn’t really confuse people and government decisions,” he told CNBC’s Dan Murphy.

Many major international airlines, including British Airways and Air France-KLM, decided to suspend flights to Russia earlier this year in response to the country’s invasion of Ukraine. This decision was quickly made by Russian flagship airline Aeroflot, which halted all international flights except to Belarus.

Many Western allies, meanwhile, have barred direct flights from Russia from entering their airspace as part of a growing set of sanctions against President Vladimir Putin and his regime.

Dubai-owned Emirates is one of the few major airlines to continue its direct flight service to Russia as other carriers cease operations following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Nurphoto | Getty Images

Yet the UAE has been reluctant to take sides in the ongoing war and has so far resisted Moscow’s sanction.

Al Maktoum said that until the government changes its position, Emirates will continue to operate its flights to Moscow and St Petersburg.

“It’s a government decision. We have no instructions to stop flights there,” he said.

Al Maktoum added that the war and resulting sanctions have undoubtedly weighed more heavily on airlines as they attempt to recover from the pandemic.

However, he said Emirates continued to see strong demand overall and expected to return to full pre-Covid operations by the end of the financial year.

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