Sunday, 15 December 2013

Personalisation: Making a difference

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page 48/49 & page 50

“The shape of things to come”, proclaimed Imperial Airways, the colonial precursor to British Airways, in a 1936 advertisement for Short Empire Flying Boats. Its notice featured an artist’s impression of stately travellers boarding one of the revolutionary aircraft, which were due to enter service the following year.

Imperial’s four-engine, double-decker Flying Boats had sleeping accommodation for 16 passengers, with cabin interiors comprising three large saloons, one kitchen and one ever-essential smoking room. On day-time flights, its capacity stretched to 24.

Having handled just 8,012 passengers in 1936/37, the airline’s idealistic vision of the future may have seemed reasonable at the time. Fast forward seven decades, however, to an age when 3 billion travelers take to the skies each year, and its prophecy of airborne luxury is hard to reconcile with modern-day reality...

Sunday, 1 December 2013

In the driving seat

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page 20/21 & page 22

As if any proof were needed that the Gulf’s airlines have become the driving force behind global civil aviation, last month’s Dubai Air Show reaffirmed their dominance in spectacular fashion. Collectively, Dubai’s Emirates Airline, Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways placed orders for $150 billion of aircraft. Emirates was the biggest spender, splashing out on 150 next-generation Boeing 777Xs – due to enter service around the end of the decade – as well as another 50 double-decker Airbus A380s.

In fairness, many of the aircraft will eventually be deployed as replacement units, allowing older, less fuel-efficient models to be withdrawn from service. The 777X promises to burn 20% less fuel than the current-generation 777, notching up a major cost saving for its operators. But the continuance of year-on-year mega orders in the Gulf underscores how Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha are slowly becoming the centrepiece of global aviation...

Friday, 22 November 2013

Thinking big by buying small

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At this week’s Dubai Air Show, sales of $150 billion of aircraft to the big three Gulf carriers (Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways) overshadowed a more intriguing development. Standing by its well-established reputation for snapping up airline stakes, Etihad—the Abu Dhabi-based flag-carrier of the UAE—paid an unknown sum for 33.3% of Darwin Airline, a carrier serving Europe’s beleaguered regional market. Etihad already owns chunks of Air Berlin, Virgin Australia, Air Seychelles, Ireland’s Aer Lingus and India’s Jet Airways, and is working to buy a stake in Air Serbia. Investing in a tiny carrier that deploys 50-seat aircraft may seem insignificant compared with these bulkier partnerships, but Etihad's chief executive, James Hogan, calls it a “step-change” in his airline’s strategy...

Friday, 15 November 2013

Interview: Tewolde Gebremariam, Ethiopian Airlines CEO

Full article in JPG format: page 18/19, page 20 & cover

Having grown its revenue 700% since 2005, you might presume that Ethiopian Airlines will enter a period of consolidation over the coming years. But you would be wrong. The flag carrier is planning to expand another fivefold by 2025, doubling its fleet in the process and establishing a network of hubs across the continent.

“If you divide the history of the airline into two, you can speak of the last seven years and the previous 60 years,” chief executive Tewolde Gebremariam tells Routes News. “Back in 2004/05, we saw that the opportunities for expansion were limitless, based on our geographical location and the high-growth regions we serve … Our mantra and strategy has been fast, profitable and sustainable growth...

Friday, 1 November 2013

Jetihad: Family fortunes

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page 25 & page 26/27

In October, after six months of wrangling, Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways secured the approval of India’s cabinet to acquire 24% of Mumbai-based Jet Airways. The $379 million deal was made possible by a decision to relax foreign ownership restrictions last year, but the country’s regulatory bodies put up fierce resistance before giving the final go-ahead. India’s second largest carrier now joins the growing family of airlines part-owned – and indisputably part-controlled – by Abu Dhabi’s flag carrier.

The partnership should be exceptionally lucrative for both sides. Once fully consummated, it will see Etihad’s reach in India expand from nine to 26 cities. That will give the Gulf carrier a foothold in one of the world’s fastest growing aviation markets, which already handles 150 million passengers a year...

Interview: Marwan Boodai, Jazeera Airways Chairman

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When Jazeera Airways posted an annual loss of KD8.2 million ($28.4 million) in 2009, the outlook appeared bleak for Kuwait’s fledging private aviation sector.

The emirate’s much-vaunted liberalisation drive had now produced two struggling private carriers – also including Wataniya Airways, which was months away from bankruptcy – and flag carrier Kuwait Airways continued its two-decade-long run of almost uninterrupted annual losses.

For Jazeera chairman Marwan Boodai, however, the finger of blame was pointing squarely outside of Kuwait. He believed that larger regional competitors were dumping capacity in the emirate in order to re-route traffic through their own hubs. The success of Jazeera’s subsequent turnaround plan appears to have validated that judgement...

Interview: Paul Griffiths, Dubai Airports CEO

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Dubai World Central will be the world’s largest airport when it is completed in the mid-2020s. But Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths tells Martin Rivers that the future aerotropolis is about much more than scale.

When Concourse A opened at Dubai International Airport (DXB) in January 2013, the benefits of travelling through the purpose-built Airbus A380 facility were immediately apparent to passengers. As well as allowing Business and First Class customers to board aircraft direct from their lounges, the 11-floor concourse features two hotels and 11,000 sq m of retail space. It has cemented DXB's status as the world's foremost A380 hub, with the airport handling 7,259 of the double-decker flights last year...

Interview: Thierry Antinori, Emirates CCO

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Few people familiar with the history of Emirates Airline will have been surprised by news that the Dubai flag-carrier plans to more than double its US network over the next five years.

For an airline that receives an average of one Airbus A380 each month – not to mention its growing fleet of Boeing 777-300s – expansion has become the norm. Emirates today serves 135 destinations across 77 countries, with its steady stream of route launches most recently including Angeles in the Philippines, Conakry in Guinea and Sialkot in Pakistan.

But growth of the network only tells part of the story. As Emirates gears up for its widely-expected 777X order at the Dubai Air Show in November, chief commercial officer Thierry Antinori is turning his focus to in-flight enhancements tailored for this new breed of wide-body aircraft...

Interview: Ghaith Al Ghaith, FlyDubai CEO

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FlyDubai took an unexpected turn in June when it unveiled a new Business Class product. Chief executive Ghaith Al Ghaith tells Martin Rivers why the low-cost carrier is going down the premium path.

The first FlyDubai service offering Business Class took off for the Ukrainian capital Kiev on 8 October, sporting 12 premium seats finished in Italian leather and with a generous seat pitch of 42 inches. By the end of 2013, the number of destinations benefiting from the two-cabin configuration will have risen to 27...

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Mr O'Leary takes to Twitter

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A lot can change in three months. In mid-July I spoke to Michael O’Leary, the chief executive of Ryanair, Europe’s largest low-cost carrier. He said that Ryanair deliberately “tortures” its passengers when they check in bags; that the airline industry is populated by a bunch of “losers” and “lemmings”; and that Ryanair’s ideal customer is someone with “a pulse and a credit card”. Standard fare, then, for the industry’s most-outspoken boss. But then last month Ryanair issued an unexpected profit warning, and Mr O’Leary grudgingly told shareholders that he will stop “unnecessarily pissing people off”...