INTERVIEW: ADIL AL GHAITH VICE PRESIDENT PAKISTAN & AFGHANISTAN, EMIRATES AIRLINE
THE AIRLINE IS FLYING TO 101 DESTINATIONS IN 62 COUNTRIES
Nov 16 - 22, 2009
Recently Emirates Airline has expanded its destinations around the globe. What did drive the expansion? Is the air traffic is growing and if so are you also expanding your fleet?
ADIL: Yes, a key factor for network expansion has been increased passenger traffic. You can gauge this from the fact that in the first half of our financial year 2009-10, Emirates Airline posted strong business growth, both in terms of capacity on offer and traffic carried compared to the corresponding period in 2008-performance that has been in stark contrast to the current trend seen across the aviation industry.
Capacity measured in Available Seat Kilometers (ASKM) grew by 22% whilst passenger traffic carried measured in Revenue Passenger Kilometers (RPKM) was up 21% with Passenger Seat Factor sustained at a high level, averaging 77.5 percent, slightly down compared to 78.3% for last year.
Emirates Airline currently flies to 101 destinations in 62 countries across six continents. The airline operates nearly 1000 flights per week from its base at Dubai International Airport in the United Arab Emirates. To meet this extensive network Emirates currently has 139 aircraft in its rapidly growing fleet ñ a mix of 131 Airbus and Boeing passenger aircraft and 8 freighters.
Emirates' fleet is one of the youngest in the skies, with an average age of 65 months. The airline continuously replaces old aircraft with newer ones and has frequently been the first to sign up for new developments in aviation design and technology.
Emirates' total order book now stands at 153 aircraft, all wide body, and worth over $50 billion US dollars.
To speak of the future outlook, by 2012 we expect to carry 33 million passengers annually on some 150 aircraft. Emirates is investing US$ 600 plus million in in-flight products and services. In a deal worth US$120 million, Emirates has selected B/E Aerospace to retrofit its existing B777-300ER and A340-500 fleet and equipped its new B777 aircraft with the airline's signature First Class private suites and lie-flat Business Class seats aircraft.
Emirates has also announced the successful pricing of its inaugural US bond offering guaranteed by the Export Import Bank of the United States related to a loan facility secured for three new Boeing 777-300ER aircraft.
The airline industry suffered heavily on the back of global financial turmoil. How has Emirates managed to overcome the implications of the worldwide economic & financial meltdown?
ADIL: The air transport industry will continue experiencing a downturn until end of the year. Significant indicators such as fewer passengers through major domestic and international airports are to be reported. Emirates will not be totally immune from the current economic conditions and may experience a seat factor reduction when compared to the previous year.
However, we are optimistic that our extensive network and our new ultra-modern Emirates Terminal 3 at Dubai, facilitating efficient connectivity, will continue to be attractive to our customers. We continue to expand our operations in markets that are still buoyant such as Africa and Middle East. Also we have a diverse customer base and hence it is unlikely that Emirates will be permanently hit by the current turn of events.
To give you a fair idea of our recent financial statements, Emirates Airline produced a net profit of US$205 million, for the first six months of our current financial year ended 30th September 2009. This represents a 165% improvement compared to US$77 million net profits for the same period in 2008.
During this period the airline made an estimated direct contribution of Dh10 billion, and an estimated indirect contribution of Dh14 billion to the UAE economy, carrying over 13 million passengers and over 700,000 tonnes of cargo, and in the process also helped other businesses operating at Dubai International Airport achieve growth in revenue and traffic.
There is no doubt that Dubai has established its identity as the world's financial hub. Is that reflected in influx of air travelers?
ADIL: Emirates supported and stimulated growth in the aviation and tourism industries by continuing fleet and network expansion with eight new aircraft added, two new destinations launched and additional frequencies introduced. It is running its ongoing programme to install the latest in-flight entertainment systems and mobile connectivity across its fleet and investing in the training and retention of its 29,000 strong staff.
In addition the airline invested over Dh40 million to activate two major campaigns promoting travel to and via its Dubai hub: "Keep Discovering Dubai" launched with industry partners in April-June hosted over 2,000 travel and media representatives from all over the world to experience Dubai's latest attractions; and "Meet Dubai", Emirates' largest investment to date in a single global advertising campaign, showcased Dubai's unique appeal through its people and residents.
Emirates' cash position (including held to maturity cash investments of Dh200 million) on 30th September was US$1.8 billion, compared to US$2.0 billion six months earlier. This was after funding a significant ongoing capital expenditure programme that included pre-delivery payments for new aircraft on order, building projects in Dubai, and an upgrade of the interiors of some of the existing fleet. During the first half, Emirates successfully raised aircraft financing of US$0.9 billion.
Emirates has a number of flights from Pakistan every day. Would you like to discuss outlook of aviation business from Pakistan?
ADIL: Pakistan is an important market for us both in terms of its commercial and also its historic importance and air travel in Pakistan has been increasing year on year. We launched operations in 1985 with one of the first flights from Dubai to Karachi. Since then Emirates and Pakistan have come a long way together and this historic relationship of Emirates Airline with the country has strengthened relations between Pakistan and the UAE.
Emirates offers 39 return flights per week from Pakistan to Dubai including 28 services a week from Karachi, 5 from Islamabad, 4 from Lahore and 2 from Peshawar.
The airline operates a variety of aircraft from Pakistan including Airbus A330-200, Boeing 777-200 and Boeing 777-300 aircraft, in a two-class (Business and Economy) configuration. At present, we have more than 3,000 Pakistani nationals working with us throughout the network with a Pakistani cabin crew of 100. Dubai and the Middle East is also the most lucrative hub for Pakistani nationals to earn their livelihood and we have a significant Pakistani population currently residing in UAE and the Middle East.
Pakistan is among the top contributing markets for Dubai Shopping Festival and Dubai Summer Surprises. One reason of our commercial success in Pakistan is the understanding of these trends and changes in consumer behaviour and then orienting packages that suit these consumer demographics.
Emirates SkyCargo is the Emirates Group's air-freight business providing reliable cargo solutions to more than 100 airports across the globe. Our prime exports in Pakistan comprise of leather goods, seasonal exports of mangoes, carpets, surgical instruments, courier mails, and perishable items such as crabs and meat.
Overall, there has been tremendous growth in terms of both revenue and passenger traffic from Pakistan. Economic boom has also been a positive influence on air travel market in Pakistan. In 2008/09, Emirates served 531,820 passengers from Pakistan to our global network.
Emirates is one of the top airlines around the world because of its outclass customer services and quality flight safety. Where can we place it when compared with other top airlines of the world in terms of number of flights, number of destinations, and size of the flight?
ADIL: There are a number of factors including innovation, network access, fleet age that distinguishes Emirates Airline from others. Emirates has one of the youngest, most modern fleets in the skies. We operate across 6 continents catering to major travel, tour and business destinations. We have led innovation in in-flight entertainment and communication technologies offered on board.
Our fine dining and luxury that passengers experience in our lounges, Marhaba greeting facilities, and Young Flyers programs have all earned us the reputation of being an industry leader.
While Emirates continues to operate globally, you will find a local consciousness that is built in our approach to each region, identifying their unique needs and addressing them to boost our performance and service. Emirates has also emphasized on forensic planning and critical approach to problem solving.
Our success in maintaining a high profile image stems directly from our mission to ensure "an exceptional journey from start to finish". Our First Class customers enjoy exceptional standards of luxury with wide aisles, automated control of seats and entertainment facilities. Our Business Class passengers are ensured 24/7 connectivity with laptop charging, SMS, phone and email from their seat on all aircraft. On the Brisbane-to-Singapore route, for example, the stir-fried lobster in black bean sauce reflects the vivid flavors of the local markets. That's just one of the regionally inspired menus created with care for our First Class passengers by our world-class chefs.
Emirates continues to strive to offer customers an entirely new flying experience. From our e-ticketing system, chauffeur-driven service to the airport, premium airport lounges, state-of-the-art aircraft, convenient connections and now Terminal 3, the Emirates service really is second to none. And in-flight, features such as our ice entertainment system, quality meals and ample cabin space, ensures all our customers arrive at their destination refreshed.
On selected aircraft and routes, including the new A380, cabins feature a unique, advanced mood lighting system, complete with a starlit sky. This adjusts throughout the flight to reflect the time at the destination, and to help combat effects of jet lag. For Pakistanis traveling to any of Emirates' 22 destinations in Europe, Dubai is the perfect stopover destination. Emirates offers convenient stopover packages, exclusive to Emirates passengers, so they can break up their journey, reduce jet lag and also discover more about Dubai.
The strengths of Emirates Airline are an efficient cost structure combined with a superior level of customer service and a focused core management team that has been together for many years. In addition, Emirates has strong brand equity and continues to enjoy immense customer loyalty. We have a young, dynamic and well-trained workforce, and the company's culture strongly encourages creative solutions for our business challenges. We have invested in an ultra-modern fleet with high-end technology which also contributes to our efficiency.