Emirates Airline has defended its decision to continue its flights to Russia even as other international carriers have halted service, saying that people and government decisions should not be conflated.
Speaking to CNBC Tuesday, the chairman and CEO of the Dubai state airline said that it had not received any instruction from the government to cease operations and, therefore, had a duty to passengers to maintain its service.
“At least we’re doing a job. We’re connecting people between the two countries,” said Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum.
“We shouldn’t really mix up between people and government decisions,” he told CNBC’s Dan Murphy.
Many major international airlines, including British Airways and Air France-KLM, moved to suspend flights to Russia earlier this year in response to the country’s invasion of Ukraine. The move was swiftly reciprocated by Russia’s flagship airline Aeroflot, which halted all international flights — except to Belarus.
Many Western allies, meanwhile, have banned direct flights from Russia from entering their airspace as part of a growing package of sanctions against President Vladimir Putin and his regime.
Dubai-owned Emirates is one of few major airlines to continue its direct flight service to Russia as other carriers cease operations over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
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Still, the United Arab Emirates has been reluctant to take sides in the ongoing war, and has so far resisted sanctioning Moscow.
Al Maktoum said that until such time as the government changed its stance, Emirates would continue to operate its flights to Moscow and St. Petersburg.
“That is a government decision. We haven’t got any instruction really to stop flights there,” he said.
Al Maktoum added that the war and resultant sanctions had no doubt piled further weight on airlines as they attempt their post-pandemic recovery.
However, he said that Emirates was continuing to see strong demand overall and it expects to return to full pre-Covid operations by the end of the financial year.