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December 17, 2008

Emirates Airline: Green, Maybe. Responsible, Probably Not

Emirates
Emirates' 777 with efficient GE engines. 

by Brook Wilkinson

I drove to San Francisco Airport on Monday to attend a press conference for the arrival of Emirates Airline's new "green" nonstop flight to Dubai. You think that sounds hypocritical? Most of the other journalists in the room had been flown in from across the country. Emirates was patting itself on the back for shaving 250 nautical miles off the 7,400-mile route from Dubai to San Francisco, which saved 13,000 pounds of fuel.

Kudos for that. However, Emirates' arrival at one of the country's most gay-friendly cities has touched off a controversy over their hiring practices. According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, Emirates flight attendants must not become pregnant unless they are married, and cannot be openly gay--premarital sex and homosexuality are both illegal in the United Arab Emirates. They also can't gain too much weight, and aren't allowed to eat or smoke while in uniform. The airline refutes these claims, saying that "Emirates is in full compliance with the laws of the city of San Francisco, the state of California and the United States." However, those anti-discrimination laws only apply to employees based in the U.S. How likely is it that His Highness Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al-Maktoum--the CEO of Emirates Airline--is defying the laws of Dubai, a state governed by his own nephew?

Further reading:
* On the Fly: The airline industry
* Repsonsible Traveler: Making a difference

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