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

Emirates Airline has defended its decision to continue its flights to Russia even as other international carriers have stopped the service, stating that the decisions of the people and the government should not be confused.

Speaking on CNBC on Tuesday, the president and chief executive of the Dubai state airline said he 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,” said Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum.

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

Many of the 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. The move was promptly countered by the Russian flag carrier Aeroflot, which stopped all international flights except 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.

Emirates, owned by Dubai, is one of the few major airlines to continue its direct flight service to Russia while other carriers cease operations for Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Nurphoto | Getty Images

However, the UAE has been reluctant to take sides in the ongoing war and has so far resisted sanctioning Moscow.

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

“This is a government decision. We have no instructions to stop flights there,” he said.

Al Maktoum added that the war and ensuing sanctions undoubtedly piled further weight on airlines as they attempted their post-pandemic recovery.

However, he said Emirates is continuing to see strong demand overall and plans to return to pre-Covid operations by the end of the financial year.