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June 16, 2017

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Emirates punished for unsafe flights

CHINA’S civil aviation authority has slapped a fine on the Dubai-based Emirates airline and barred it from adding new routes inside the country over the next six months after two of its flights were cited for unsafe operations.

An Emirates plane flew at the wrong height on April 17, and on May 18 a plane temporarily lost contact with air traffic control, the Civil Aviation Administration of China said.

Both aircraft had been flying over the city of Urumqi, the capital of northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, at the time.

The administration said in a statement that it had imposed a fine of 29,000 yuan (US$4,265) on the Middle East’s largest airline.

The CAAC said it held Emirates crew members responsible for both incidents.

Emirates said in an e-mail that it will cooperate fully with the administration regarding the two incidents and “complete all actions recommended by the authority.”

“Emirates will never compromise on the safety of our passengers and crew,” it said.

“Safety is our No. 1 priority at all times. Emirates fully complies with the CAAC’s requirements on all our flight operations to China.”

The administration said its officials recently met Emirates representatives to assess the airline’s operations in China in recent years.

At the meeting, Emirates executives briefed Chinese officials on its own internal investigation and proposed corrective measures.

Earlier this week, the administration said it had “zero tolerance” for “security risks” and would introduce new methods to prevent accidents.

It had previously suspended Emirates for contravening its regulations.

In May last year, it announced it had suspended the airline from adding new planes and destinations for six months in relation to a flight in January 2016 that landed with low fuel after two previous attempts had been aborted because of strong winds.

The administration said the plane’s fuel on landing was at a critically low level and the captain had refused to cooperate with its investigation.

Emirates operates 38 weekly flights to five cities in the Chinese mainland, providing connections to more than 150 cities around the globe.

The five destinations are Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Yinchuan and Zhengzhou.

At the annual tourism fair Arabian Travel Market in Dubai on April 25, Emirates Chairman and CEO Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al-Maktoum said the carrier was keen to expand its route network in China.

China is an important source and growth market for tourism in the United Arab Emirates and for Dubai in particular.

In 2016, approximately 540,000 Chinese visitors flocked to Dubai, a 20 percent increase year on year, according to Dubai’s official tourism authority.

In the first quarter of this year, 230,000 overnight visitors from China visited the emirates, up 64 percent year on year.

Since the end of last year, Chinese nationals have not needed to apply for a UAE tourism visa, as they are now able to get a visa on arrival at UAE international airports.

China has also been the biggest trade partner of the Gulf Arab sheikhdom since 2014.


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