Chennai, Aug 20: The airline industry in India for a long time has been floating on murky waters. However, Emirates continues to fly high. In February, the Dubai-based airways announced a commitment for 40 A330-900s and 30 A350-900s worth $21.4 billion at list prices in an agreement signed with Airbus, to be delivered from 2021 and 2024.
The airline will also receive 14 more A380 deliveries from 2019 until the end of 2021. In an exclusive interview to News Today, vice-president of Emirates (India & Nepal) Essa Sulaiman Ahmad speaks on the airlines’ new plans, market trends and technology.
Excerpts from the interview
Q: Can you explain why the new Skywards Gold offer was given to Silver and Blue members?
A: People spending on air travel has grown at a compounded rate of 24 per cent over the past three years. More than half of the $ 36 billion spent by Indians on transport in 2018 was on airfare. At Emirates, our aim is to always keep innovating and enhancing the flying experience. The Emirates Skywards Gold membership has amazing benefits from complimentary business class lounge access for member and one guest, priority baggage, unlimited Wi-Fi, complimentary seat selection and more.
Q: How has India as a market been for Emirates this past and current year?
A: Emirates has progressively grown its Indian network to over 170 weekly flights across nine destinations. As a long-term strategic partner for India, Emirates is committed to future investment and expansion in the market in support of India’s 2020 growth target of 85 million international passengers a year, and to assist India in its goal to be the world’s third largest aviation market by 2020.
Q: How does the management look at the current scenario in Indian airline space?
A: India has been an integral part of Emirates’ route network since the airline was first launched in 1985. With robust competitive dynamics at play, and with demand outstripping supply in many Indian cities, the market would benefit from easing of the bilateral capacity restrictions between India and Dubai. Renewed arrangements would help bolster significant bilateral trade relationship between India and Dubai.
Q: What is the next best innovation that you predict will revolutionise the segment?
A: Emirates has been at the forefront of innovation in the industry. We were the first to instal TV screens in every seat on every aircraft in its fleet; the first airline to allow mobile telephony in-flight; the first airline to introduce web virtual reality tech on its digital platform. Today, the airline provides one of the most comprehensive and state-of-the-art entertainment and connectivity services in the skies.
Q: With uncertainties in fossil fuel industry and onslaught of new propulsion systems, how do you think the airline industry will shape up in the near future?
A: We are committed to minimising the environmental impact of our operations across all our businesses and activities. We minimise impact by investing in a multi-billion-dollar fleet – one of the youngest in the skies and hosts state-of-the-art technology, reducing fuel use, noise and emissions. Last year, we created a permanent Operations Efficiency Steering Group that set stakeholder targets and implemented several initiatives, including the monitoring, reporting and verification of fuel-saving initiatives. We leveraged data and analytics to optimise fuel quantities on every flight.
Q: Could you tell us your revenue, growth rate for the past year and expectations for the current year?
A: Emirates reported a profit of $ 237 million, for the financial year ended 31 March 2019, 69 per cent down from the previous year, and the group posted a profit of $ 631 million for the financial year ended 31 March 2019, down 44 per cent from last year. Its revenue increased by 6 per cent to $ 26.7 billion, supported by steady passenger and cargo performance. In 2018-19, the group collectively invested $ 3.9 billion in new aircraft and equipment, acquisition of companies, modern facilities, latest technologies, and staff initiatives, a significant increase over last year’s investment spend of $ 2.5 billion. It’s hard to predict the year ahead, but Emirates is well-positioned to navigate speed bumps, as well as to compete and succeed in the global marketplace.