Emirates Airline launched its operation in 1985 with just two aircraft. Now the airline operates the world’s biggest fleet of Airbus A380s and Boeing 777s. It prides itself on offering value for money to its customers – from award winning in-flight entertainment to the service of Emirates Multi-national Cabin Crew.
Manoj Nair, Country Manager for Ethiopia has worked for Emirates since 2009 and before coming to Ethiopia, he has also been in charge of the portfolio for West Africa. He spoke to Capital about Emirates’ operations in the country and the continent and how they have become so successful.
Capital: What is Emirates strategy for the African market?
Manoj Nair: I think Emirates has always believed in the economic potential of this continent and we have maintained a very good presence across the African continent our continuous focus is to grow our passenger and cargo operations in this part of the world.
One of the things that we are always focused on is to ensure that we give the best value for money to our customers and from a growth perspective, we want to make sure we maintain our presence in this market, increase our capacity as well as increase our frequencies and in places where it suits us upgrade our fleets as well. We feel that it is a region with a lot of potential.
Capital: There aren’t a lot of national airlines in Africa, the main one is Ethiopian Airlines, you also have Turkish airlines which has a heavy presence. But you have competitive prices, besides that, what do you offer customers to remain competitive?
Nair: We consider ourselves to be a global carrier, and being a global carrier, one of our biggest strengths is our network connectivity. We have connections to more than 150 countries in the world. The other big advantage is our hub, which is Dubai.
The reason we say that is because Dubai is not only one of the fastest growing destination in the world but also the most preferred destination for leisure as well as business. It is one of the most visited countries in the world as well so people do have this affinity towards Dubai as a destination which plays to our advantage.
We continue to advance our products; we do have a very good fleet, the A380 our customers just love it especially the first and business class passengers because we have an on board lounge service which people just love because it’s a great place to interact with other like-minded business and premium customers.
Also with regards to the first class passengers we have a spa shower on board which is also something that is very convenient for people who are going on long flights and when they are about to land they can take a shower and go straight for their meetings and such.
Those are the customer experiences that we have enhanced over a period of time and which is our competitive advantage. I think I will also say that for our Ethiopian customers, we do offer all their preferred destinations; we have 12 destinations to the US, 40 destinations to Europe and more than 30 destinations to Asia Pacific, which are destinations which Ethiopian or African customer would like to visit in their travels.
We have a very multinational and multi-linguistic crew which speak over 60 languages and a lot of them are Ethiopians as well, so it makes the customer really comfortable when they are on board. Lastly I think the entertainment system is second to none in the world, we have the largest in-seat screen and over 2,500 channels. If you add all these together, we do have a lot of value for money services and that is what keeps us more competitive in this market.
Capital: What about regarding a longer term strategy, what should we expect from Emirates in the years to come?
Nair: From a long term perspective, we will continue to do what we have been doing all along and that is to make sure that we give the best value for money service, the most important thing is the experience our customers take when they are flying with Emirates and continue to be the first choice of travelers in this market.
Capital: What about the challenges you face operating in Africa?
Nair: I think from a challenge perspective it’s a very fluid and dynamic market, any market is fluid and dynamic. There are bound to be challenges which are internal and external but the advantage that we have as Emirates is that we are very adaptable.
We have a very sole focus on the market, we do understand that the capacity and demand and supply is in context to what influences any market and because of our adaptability we do know how to channel our capacity as well as our flaws in those aspects.
Capital: Speaking about challenges, how has the recent ban on items such as laptops to US bound flights affected your operations?
Nair: I think Emirates have mitigated the risk or the ban on electronic devices. We have addressed this in two parts; one is where we have the first and business class customers, if they are originating from another point, we have allowed them to carry their electronic items up until Dubai to continue working until the boarding gate. And once they are at the boarding gate they need to declare their electronic devices and then we package it and tag it and then they will get it at the destination.
What we have done for the first and business classes on a complimentary bases is provide them with Microsoft tablets which are loaded with Microsoft 2016 programs so that they will be able to continue to work. If any pending work needs to be done, what they can do is load it onto a flash drive and then continue working on board on the tablets that are provided. This is what we have done to address the situation.
The law doesn’t apply to flights which go via Milan and Athens, these two flights will continue with customers having their electronic devices on board.
Capital: A lot of Ethiopians travel to Dubai either for vacation or on business. How has that number increased the last few years?
Nair: I think it has come a long way. If I run the numbers only from 2015 to 2016, it has nearly doubled. That clearly shows that the demand for Dubai is ever growing and increasing. One of the features Dubai has to offer it is constantly introducing new things for people to see and experience.
Last year, Dubai introduced two theme parks; the Dubai Parks and the IMG. Dubai as a destination has kept the interest of Ethiopians and we can see the results of that with the almost doubled numbers of travelers. That is a very encouraging fact for us.
Capital: What is your marketing strategy for Dubai so that more visitors come?
Nair: We have a company called Emirates Holidays which is part of the Emirates group and we develop leisure packages that are all inclusive packages which have hotels, car hires, exciting tours and so on. We come up with tailor made offers for different segments of the society in Ethiopia and advertize it to customers.
A lot of people like these packages and so we are constantly keep on innovating, come up with offers and deals and we do partner up with certain properties and certain theme parks to make things attractive for the customers and that keeps on creating interest for the customers.