Jabr Al-Azeeby, vice president of India and Nepal operations of Emirates Airlines speaks to India Outbound about the new launches for the Indian market and the carrier’s target to attract more Indian fliers.
What are your plans for the Indian market? Are there any new offerings that you are planning to launch?
India continues to lead as one of our most important markets and we’re committed to offering our customers convenience, comfort, innovative products and personalised services. Customers can look forward to our modern and refreshed fleet, more destinations on our global network, new products and services.
We started daily services to Porto on July 2, marking the second destination in Portugal, and Mexico City on December 9, the airline’s first passenger flight to Mexico. The Mexico City flight is a linked service with Barcelona, meaning that customers can now travel from India to Dubai and onwards to two iconic cities in unprecedented style and comfort.
At the Dubai Air Show last year, we announced the purchase of 30 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft and 50 Airbus A350-900 XWB aircraft which will improve our agility and operational flexibility and help optimise and grow our global route network.
We plan to introduce Premium Economy on a small number of aircraft next year, as we continue to work on ensuring that our booking and other backend systems support this new product. We will make the announcements on aircraft type and routes once we are ready to do so. We expect a bigger rollout of our premium economy product by 2021.
We recently introduced a dedicated shopping channel on our award-winning inflight entertainment system, called EmiratesRED TV. It is packed with over 150 products and features some of the world’s most desirable brands and the latest must-haves.
Emirates Skywards has recently launched Skywards Exclusives, a unique airline loyalty initiative that offers curated and carefully crafted experiences from Emirates’ expansive sponsorships portfolio. World-class sporting events, performances, concerts, VIP hospitality and thrilling, money-can’t-buy experiences globally are now just Skywards Miles away for its 25+ million members, of which more than 1.8 million are from India.
Earlier this year you signed a codeshare partnership with SpiceJet and added six new cities to the Indian route? Is there any new flight connectivity that you are planning?
Emirates has signed a codeshare and interline agreement with SpiceJet to give travellers to and from India seamless access to a wider and a stronger route network. This is the first-ever codeshare agreement signed by SpiceJet. From early 2020, customers travelling to India can take advantage of many more flight options on routes common to both airlines – Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Kochi and Delhi. Emirates’ customers can conveniently book and connect seamlessly in Dubai on direct services to Amritsar, Kozhikode, Mangalore, Madurai, Jaipur and Pune – routes served by SpiceJet.
The codeshare agreement means travellers from across the globe can book a single ticket with attractive fares to any of Emirates’ nine points across India and connect onwards to 172 domestic routes that are part of SpiceJet’s network. SpiceJet’s domestic network includes popular destinations like Goa, Dehradun, Dharamshala, Jaisalmer, Jammu, Srinagar, Leh, Guwahati, Pondicherry, Port Blair, Shirdi, Tirupati, Udaipur and Varanasi. Globally, the portfolio of our airline partnerships has grown to 26 codeshares and 156 interline partners. Customers benefit from our strategic codeshare partnership with flydubai, by gaining access to 94 global destinations served by flydubai with seamless connections at our Dubai hub.
How is the Indian market for Emirates in terms of revenue and traffic?
We have carried around 50 million passengers on our Indian network in the past 10 years and transported over 1.24 billion tonnes of cargo to and from India in the last five years alone. We expect these numbers to grow as we continue to offer better connectivity, and unmatched culturally relevant and personalised services to our customers from India. Given our long-term relationship with India and as an airline of choice, we are committed to investing and expanding to support India’s 2020 growth target of 85 million international passengers a year. We look forward to contributing even more to India in the years to come.
How is the competition in the Indian market? Since the Indian market is extremely price driven what is your strategy to take on the competitors?
Emirates’ aim has always been to connect people to places across the planet in unmatched style and comfort. We offer a vast network of 159 destinations in 85 countries, spanning six continents. Our modern fleet of 261 wide-bodied Airbus and Boeing aircraft provides unparalleled safety, comfort and luxury in the skies. Our well-trained multicultural cabin crew from 130+ countries speak more than 60 languages and deliver Emirates’ high standards onboard with passion and dedication, ensuring our guests enjoy memorable, safe, and comfortable journeys.
In short, we focus on delivering world-class products and services. We offer a range of fares that travellers can choose from based on their preferences and budgets – so we have Special, Saver, Flex or Flex Plus in Economy Class and Business Class, and Flex or Flex Plus in First Class. There are also featured fares in every class of travel. We also offer celebratory and seasonal fares to help our customers budget and plan their travels better.
As an award-winning airline, we are constantly innovating and upgrading our products and services to create memorable and premium travel experiences for all our customers.
Our First Class private suites in our Boeing 777s have floor to ceiling sliding doors and sleek design features inspired by the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Offering up to 40 square feet of personal space each, these spacious, fully-enclosed private suites are laid out in a 1-1-1 configuration.
From First Class to Economy Class, the Emirates A380 has been an industry step-change for passengers to experience new standards of inflight comfort. Emirates revolutionised the A380’s cabin space design when it introduced its bespoke version of the aircraft, incorporating higher ceilings, mood-lighting as well as signature, industry-first elements like its Onboard Lounge, a social area at 40,000 feet where jet-setters could meet in an ambient setting and enjoy premium wines, spirits, finger foods and pastries.
The Emirates A380 Economy Class seats feature among the widest individual in-seat screens in the industry, measuring in at 13.3 inches. To offer seamless mobility and true comfort, we offer complimentary Chauffeur-drive services in over 75 cities worldwide and drive them between their doorstep and the airport. Emirates Lounges at major international airports across the globe offer premium class customers and Skywards members luxurious havens before taking their flights. Emirates Skywards, our award-winning frequent flyer programme, with over 25 million members worldwide, offers four tiers of membership: Blue, Silver, Gold and Platinum, with each tier earning exclusive privileges.
What is the segment that you are actively targeting – business or leisure?
Our aim is to appeal to every travel segment – whether it’s singles looking for their next big adventure, business travellers looking to close deals, couples on honeymoon, or families travelling to meet loved ones or visit theme parks. For business customers, who we know place a premium on time and need to arrive refreshed, we offer complimentary Chauffeur Drive Services in over 75 cities worldwide and drive them between their doorstep and the airport.
Our premium passengers are offered exclusive amenity kits and those travelling First Class on the Emirates A380 can refresh and rejuvenate at the Shower Spa. They can then slip into the world’s first moisturising sleepwear range of pyjamas.
For families, we offer full support every step of the customer journey. From baby bassinets and kids’ meals to toys and extra baggage allowances, our services are designed for family-friendly travel. Emirates complements the family travel experience with dedicated family check-in desks and complimentary baby strollers at Dubai International Airport, as well as priority boarding in most airports.
What are the challenges that you are facing currently and you would like the authorities to look into?
Globally, the airline industry is challenged by ongoing trade and regional disputes and geopolitical tensions in many markets. This year, although lower fuel costs have provided some relief, currency fluctuations continued to erode our bottom line.
As a global airline, we will continue to face headwinds with a clear strategy and agility that draws on the unique strength and flexibility of our business model. We will continue to invest in better products and services, so that we can retain our loyal fans, while attracting new and emerging customer segments.
How has your journey in India been and how do you plan to take it further?
Delhi and Mumbai formed the base of our initial route network in October 1985. Since then, we have been expanding our network base that has grown to 170 flights to India per week serving nine destinations including Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram.
Emirates SkyCargo connects India’s main exports – pharmaceuticals, chemicals, automotive parts, electronic items, engineering spares, perishables to more than 150 destinations, key partners and trading countries globally in our belly-hold and freighters.
India’s aviation market is now one of the largest and the country is on track to become the world’s third-largest aviation market. Our history, affinity and closeness to India, coupled with its economic growth, the increasingly significant role it plays on the global stage, and travel and experiential aspirations of its people– all these factors make it an important country on Emirates’ network.