TRAVEL: AN AIR OF LUXE

The con­cept of lux­ury has evolved over the past decade, from over­load­ing with glitz and glam to now rep­re­sent­ing a more re­fined ap­proach to per­son­al­i­sa­tion. Gone are the days where a first class flight and a stay at the pres­i­den­tial suite de­fine the ul­tim

The Peak (Hong Kong) - - Contents -

Eti­had Air­ways’ CEO Peter Baum­gart­ner shares why to­day’s lux­ury travel ex­pe­ri­ence is one that is more than just an op­u­lent cabin

The face of travel has evolved so much that one of the world's lead­ers in lux­ury air travel has found the need to fur­ther en­hance its pi­o­neer­ing busi­ness and on-board apart­ment ser­vices to in­clude more flex­i­ble op­tions and unique ex­pe­ri­ences. A lead­ing air­line with its base in Abu Dhabi, Eti­had Air­ways is mak­ing head­way to dis­cover more ways to en­sure each travel ex­pe­ri­ence is a unique one. From a se­lec­tion of in-flight op­tions to en­hanc­ing the ease of con­nect­ing around the world, Eti­had Air­ways' CEO and avid trav­eller Peter Baum­gart­ner shares why to­day's lux­ury travel ex­pe­ri­ence is one that is more than just an op­u­lent cabin.

Of­fer­ing choice is one of the keys to Eti­had Air­ways’ evolv­ing busi­ness model, how much of this has to do with your per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence as a trav­eller? Our pi­o­neer­ing role in lux­ury travel is what has made us one of the fastest grow­ing air­lines in avi­a­tion his­tory. While the de­mand for lux­ury travel ex­pe­ri­ence con­tin­ues, we also saw a grow­ing num­ber of price­sen­si­tive trav­ellers who might not need a full suite of ser­vices and are will­ing to trade some ser­vices for a lower air­fare. Our new ap­proach fo­cuses on choice and flex­i­bil­ity to cus­tomers, al­low­ing us to in­crease our at­trac­tive­ness to fly­ers who do not need our fullser­vice ex­pe­ri­ence by of­fer­ing cus­tomers a ba­sic ticket at a com­pet­i­tive price and let­ting them choose the ad­di­tional op­tions they find most at­trac­tive.

Why is per­son­al­i­sa­tion and flex­i­bil­ity an im­por­tant part of mod­ern travel? We hope to give our guests more power and con­trol of their flying ex­pe­ri­ence by pro­vid­ing them with the op­por­tu­nity to cus­tomise and per­son­alise their jour­ney.

The Res­i­dence - in the sky, of­fer­ing cus­tomers a flying ex­pe­ri­ence akin to pri­vate jet travel on a com­mer­cial air­craft. We are the first to in­tro­duce highly-re­garded ser­vices such as an In­flight Chef to bring fine-din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence on board, and Flying Nanny to help those with chil­dren travel with ease. But we also cater to that ever-grow­ing pro­por­tion of fly­ers who don't look for our full-ser­vice ex­pe­ri­ence, by of­fer­ing guests the op­por­tu­nity to buy a ba­sic ticket at a most com­pet­i­tive price while still ex­pe­ri­enc­ing our renowned Ara­bian hos­pi­tal­ity and let­ting them choose the ad­di­tional op­tions they find most at­trac­tive. For some Econ­omy Class trav­ellers, that might mean a gourmet meal with no checked lug­gage, but with in­flight Wi-fi and live TV.

The Res­i­dence and First Apart­ment are cel­e­brated for their lux­u­ri­ous fit­tings and im­pec­ca­ble ser­vice, will it con­tinue to be an im­por­tant as­pect of Eti­had Air­ways? Lux­u­ri­ous ser­vice is what Eti­had Air­ways is renowned for, and we will con­tinue to of­fer re­mark­able ex­pe­ri­ences like The Res­i­dence and First Apart­ment. By of­fer­ing cus­tomers op­tions, we are sim­ply shift­ing from ex­clu­sive lux­ury to more in­clu­sive qual­ity by choice, with the same great ser­vice and hos­pi­tal­ity at its heart.

That said, our fa­mously warm ser­vice will also al­ways be there, and I want to em­pha­size that. Whether it's a five-star lux­ury ex­pe­ri­ence or a ba­sic seat with no frills or ex­tras, our hos­pi­tal­ity and warmth re­main the mech­a­nism to of­fer con­sis­tency at whichever price our guests choose. The young air­line has been ag­gres­sively grow­ing its pres­ence in Asia, with cities like Hong Kong see­ing more op­tions for di­rect flights to the UAE as a re­sult, how has that af­fected the num­ber of peo­ple who have taken an in­ter­est in trav­el­ling to the re­gion? From route eco­nom­ics and net­work eco­nom­ics per­spec­tives, a fo­cus on point-to-point traf­fic is crit­i­cal. This links di­rectly to our com­mit­ment to sup­port and pro­mote Abu Dhabi's eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties and tourism. We want to bring peo­ple to our home city from des­ti­na­tions from around the world.

As the na­tional car­rier of the United Arab Emi­rates, that is a huge fo­cus for us. We want to be a strong player in emerg­ing flow traf­fic op­por­tu­ni­ties but in a very, very bal­anced way so that at all times we have an eco­nom­i­cally sen­si­ble traf­fic mix. This is not about be­com­ing the big­gest busi­ness; it's about be­com­ing the op­ti­mal air­line in sup­port of Abu Dhabi's vi­sion.

What are your thoughts on the lux­ury travel in­dus­try over­all? Both the trav­ellers from China and the UAE are known for their pen­chant for lux­ury, how do you see these two mar­kets dif­fer? Are there as­pects of Eti­had that you feel makes the air­line es­pe­cially at­trac­tive to the Chi­nese trav­ellers? Lux­ury travel is more than just trans­porta­tion or ac­com­mo­da­tions these days. It is about free­dom, ex­pe­ri­ence, ease and flex­i­bil­ity. Trav­ellers are de­mand­ing new ways to meet their de­sire for the unique, the lo­cal, the per­sonal and the ad­ven­tur­ous ex­pe­ri­ence. With the de­vel­op­ment of new tech­nolo­gies, such as dig­i­tal ca­pa­bil­i­ties, ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence and vir­tual re­al­ity, trav­ellers can ex­pect to see con­tin­ued ad­vances merged into their pro­grams.

I see a lot of com­mon­al­i­ties be­tween UAE and Chi­nese trav­ellers. They both love au­then­tic ex­pe­ri­ences and shop­ping! Chi­nese trav­ellers are still at­tracted by safe des­ti­na­tions of­fer­ing visas on ar­rival or visa waiver and high-qual­ity ho­tels and shop­ping. Chi­nese tourists are slowly trans­form­ing and re­brand­ing them­selves to “ex­pe­ri­ence-seek­ing” tourists and mov­ing away from the habit of lav­ish shop­ping sprees abroad. They are in­creas­ingly look­ing for cus­tom­ized prod­ucts and vis­it­ing new des­ti­na­tions rather than vis­it­ing reg­u­lar at­trac­tions.

We be­lieve our ‘air­line of choices' will be very at­trac­tive to all trav­ellers in­clud­ing the Chi­nese cus­tomers as they will be em­pow­ered to have the free­dom to bun­dle a prod­uct that is cus­tom­ized and per­son­al­ized to sat­isfy their in­di­vid­ual re­quire­ments.

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