Dubai-based airline takes edge as foreign airlines jostle for aviation market dominance
In his dark suit, white shirt and blue tie, Thani Al Ansari, the Emirates Airlines country manager for Uganda, cuts the relaxed demeanour of a boss who is not under any pressure. Barely in his thirties, Ansari, who was educated in the US, is a perfect representation of an airline that has taken the aviation industry by storm thanks to its innovation, customer care and aggressive marketing techniques. In Uganda, Emirates has made the Entebbe-Dubai route its mainstay. The airline operates nonstop flights between to its headquarters in Dubai, UAE – a route on which it has become a big hit for holiday makers, public officials and the business community for eventual connection to every corner of the globe.
“Between October 2013 and September 2014, Emirates operations in Uganda carried 144,800 passengers,” Ansari told business journalists in Kampala recently. “In the coming year, we believe we will grow this number, both by introducing new routes and further expanding our customer base.” The main competitive aantage for Emirates has been its extensive global network, which gives travelers access to more than 140 countries around the world. Barely a year in Uganda as a boss, Ansari was – rather understandably – reluctant to answer questions about Uganda’s industry regulation issues.
But he said the airline has also gained popularity among Ugandan travelers because of its convenient departure and arrival times compared to its main competitors which depart and arrive in the wee hours. For Emirates, departure from Dubai International Airport is at about 0830hrs and arrives at the Entebbe at about 1250hrs, and departs from Entebbe at about 1540hrs and lands in Dubai at about 2200hrs. An economy class ticket to Dubai costs about $480 – not bad for an airline that over the last 28 years has won international acclaim for its services. For example, Emirates was named Best Long-haul Airline and Aviation Company of the Year. In the Skytrax Airline Rating system, a professional airline quality rating classification and industry benchmark for quality excellence, Emirates was named the airline with the Best Inflight Entertainment and the Best First Class Airline Seats in 2014.
Ansari said key on Emirates focus is Africa, which has become a key market for them and Emirates would be placing a strategic focus on Africa in the coming decade by increasing operations by over 40% with most of the traffic being channeled through the Dubai hub, which has already become a key gateway for the African continent. Earlier this year, Emirates launched a daily service from Entebbe to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport in the US. The service is operated by an Emirates Boeing 777-200 LR – opening up a new opportunity for Ugandan travelers to connect seamlessly through to Dubai to the US’ third largest city. Ansari said Emirates has become a key enabler of trade to the Ugandan economy by supporting the commercial objectives of the business community in Uganda especially through “generous luggage allowance.” Economy Class customers get allowances of 30 kg, Business Class 40 kg, and First Class customers 50kg. The airline also offers freight services through ‘Emirates SkyCargo’ – their award-winning freight division.
The airline also plies the Nairobi and Dar es Salaam routes on which it serves a “healthy mix” of business and leisure traffic. The airline has experienced rapid and consistent growth, above 20% a year on average and has been profitable for the last 26 consecutive years. Financially self-sustained and unprotected, Emirates carried 44.5 million passengers in the 2013-14 and declared a net profit of $887 million, while Group revenues rose by 13.2% to gross about $24 billion. It has a fleet of over 230 aircraft comprising Airbus and Boeing. The airline has ordered another 288 aircraft pending delivery, worth over $138 billion in list prices. As the largest order announced at any event to date, Emirates has again rewritten all records in civil aviation with an order for 150 Boeing 777Xs, comprising 35 Boeing 777-8Xs and 115 Boeing 777-9Xs, plus 50 purchase rights and an additional 50 Airbus A380 aircrafts. The agreement, signed at the Dubai Air Show in 2013, is the largest aircraft order in civil aviation history. Together, the Boeing and Airbus orders, excluding purchase rights, are worth an estimated $99 billion.
Uganda, seen as a hub to the region, currently has several high profile airlines including British Airways, Turkish Airlines, Brussels Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines, and Qatar Airways among several others. As the competition in the aviation increases, the will to attract and hold onto existing customers will be paramount. Emirates’ innovations by rewarding travelers through its rewards and loyalty program for frequent flyers, has proved to be another competitive aantage. Its ‘Emirates Skywards’ is a frequent flyer program that lets a customer accumulate miles in different ways and also to enhance travel experience with a wide range of services and benefits. Aside flights, the points accumulated on the card can also be used to claim lifestyle and shopping rewards on partner companies and on the airline’s online shopping site – offering an extensive range of global luxury brands and everyday items and accessories comprising over 400 products. While Ansari insisted that they are not resting on their laurels, he probably has a reason to be calm leaving their competitors scramble for the leftovers.
Source : The Independent