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
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.