As it turns Dubai into a global hub, Emirates embraces a diverse passenger base

By Vivek Mayasandra, Take Flight Project

Over recent years, Gulf-based carriers Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad have dazzled the global airline industry with their aircraft orders, premium services and rapid expansion. Besides targetting traditional routes such as Europe – Australasia, Emirates, the leader of Gulf aviation growth, has aggressively capitalized on new passenger flows, connecting Asia with Africa and with Latin America via its Dubai hub – markets which will collectively occupy over 60 percent of passenger flows by the year 2030, according to Boeing’s latest market forecast.

As Emirates states in its latest annual report: “The future of our industry is being written not only in long-established air routes, but also in places like China, India and Africa – markets where the demand for air transport, both passenger and cargo, is growing at an incredible rate.” [...] “Our strategic hub in Dubai plays a key role in establishing new trade routes by linking emerging markets to more developed ones, such as connecting Moscow to Durban, Beijing to Luanda or Hyderabad to Sao Paulo.”

This focus has enabled Emirates to position and brand itself to a newly global customer base – and more importantly – develop solutions in service, dining and entertainment for a wide array of diverse passenger tastes.

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Cabin crew
In the air, Emirates’ diverse cabin crew is indicative of its global focus – the airline employs cabin crew from more than 130 nationalities. This lets Emirates typically staff their flights with speakers of Arabic, English and the local language of the flight’s destination. Being an Gulf-based carrier, Emirates’ crew are also trained for a variety of Arab and Muslim cultural situations – from being taken to mosques, learning how to serve the traditionally Arab meal of coffee and dates, to properly serving veiled Muslim passengers.

In-flight dining
Emirates also takes global cabin crew input in developing their in-flight dining options. Menus are planned for each individual route to ensure that meals served meet the regional preferences of travellers. For example, a Japanese chef would be used to create a range of sushi for the Japanese route or an Indian specialist to cater for the customers on flights to the Indian subcontinent. Emirates offers over 20 different choices of special meals to suit religious requirements, and for passengers who observe the holy month of Ramadan, the airline each year provides specially prepared Iftar snack boxes close to sunset time on flights departing from Dubai to allow observing Muslims to break their fasts in-flight.

In-flight entertainment
Emirates’ in-flight entertainment system, ‘ice’, which has been voted the best in the world for the past seven years, also caters to a full range of passenger tastes. The 1,200 channels on the system include a large number of movies, TV shows and music from the Arab region and India, as well as from Japan, Korea, China and Russia. Particularly impressive is Emirates’ offering of movies/entertainment in regional Indian languages, reflective of the airline’s ever-growing Indian passenger base. Emirates holds an impressive 31 percent market share on the U.S. – India market, as it also offers direct services via Dubai to 10 cities in India, many of which are so-called 2nd tier destinations.

Besides its heavy investment in ‘hardware’ (e.g, aircraft, Dubai airport), soft elements such as catering to diverse passengers tastes, will position Emirates to further tap into the growth of the middle class and the increase of business travellers from the BRICs and the ‘Next 11’.

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