The United Arab Emirates is seeking to establish Budapest as a bridgehead for onward flights in a move that could allow two of the Gulf region’s biggest airlines to carry people between central Europe and the USA.
The application for so-called fifth-freedom rights concerns services to two points beyond Hungary, Saif Al Suwaidi, director general of the UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority, said in an interview, adding that those locations have yet to be determined, but could include the USA.
Such flights can make a huge difference in the growth of airlines, opening up completely new markets that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to access. Since 2013, Emirates, the biggest UAE airline, has been extending a Dubai-Milan service on to New York, tapping travel between prosperous northern Italy and the eastern USA with Airbus Group SE A380s seating more than 450 people.
Hungary is unusual in lacking a flag carrier after the collapse of Malev Zrt. in 2012, with Beijing and Qatar the only long-haul routes in addition to Emirates’s Dubai service. Peter Szijjarto, the country’s foreign minister, said in Dubai that the UAE. application had been received, while his office added that the government is “open to such cooperation” and aims to start discussions soon.
Al Suwaidi said the Budapest initiative comes as the UAE works to convince countries lacking fifth-freedom provisions to permit such access — “especially where there is no connectivity, such as Hungary-USA” — though airlines must decide if they want to take up accords put in place. An onward trip to London would be equally possible, he said, though the route is already well-served.
A Hungarian deal could open the door for Emirates, the biggest airline by international traffic, to provide flights to the USA as an extension of the daily Dubai-Budapest service. The carrier told Bloomberg it has “no immediate plans” for such operations.
Tim Clark, the company’s president, said last year that Emirates was looking at fifth-freedom opportunities and that Greece had asked it to consider extending flights from Dubai to the USA, which has no Athens service. Proposals from the UAE for Swiss flights to carry on to Mexico may be resolved this month, the Swiss Federal Office of Civil Aviation said Thursday.