Aus­tralia the bat­tle ground for air­lines as Ireland looks east

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Business & Appointments - - FRONT PAGE - Mark Evans

FOR a man who’s fac­ing even stiffer com­pe­ti­tion in the com­ing fort­night, Enda Corneille is look­ing re­mark­ably re­laxed.

The head of Emi­rates in Ireland will be pit­ted against Hong Kong car­rier Cathay Pa­cific go­ing east, while across town, just hours af­ter his Emi­rates briefing with this col­umn, Hainan was trum­pet­ing its new ser­vice from Dublin to Bei­jing. Throw in em­bed­ded lo­cal ri­vals Eti­had, Qatar and then add Turk­ish, Air France KLM and the Nordic car­ri­ers and that’s a lot of seats to be filled from Ireland to Asia-pa­cific.

It’s a boon for the busi­ness traveller, with a slew of con­fer­ences held in Dublin re­cently for com­pa­nies ea­ger to break through the bam­boo cur­tain.

“If you asked any­one six years ago how many flights there could pos­si­bly be east from Ireland ev­ery day you wouldn’t have said eight. You mightn’t have even said one,” Corneille told the Sun­day In­de­pen­dent.

But he be­lieves his car­rier has ad­van­tages for the busi­ness traveller. One is a free limou­sine ser­vice in a 50km ra­dius for busi­ness class and 70km for first. The other is con­nec­tiv­ity. “Don’t for­get that the range of des­ti­na­tions is wide,” he said. “Emi­rates would cover ev­ery­thing but if you look at Cathay and Hainan they’re over­fly­ing In­dia and not par­tic­i­pat­ing in the In­dia mar­ket. They’re barely par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Thai mar­ket. The bat­tle will be Aus­tralia, there’s no doubt. That’s a mar­ket we know well — we have a lot of A380s on Aus­tralia and that’s a real sell­ing point for the cus­tomer.”

He said that glob­ally, Emi­rates recorded “good results for the year”, with “stellar results from Ireland in a very com­pet­i­tive mar­ket”. Load fac­tors [pas­sen­ger num­bers] are at 80pc, and he added: “If I look out to the fu­ture over the next five or six months our ad­vance book­ings are eight to 10 points ahead of last year.”

But plans to in­crease fre­quency from dou­ble daily to three a day have been put on hold for now. Corneille ex­plains that while the air­line has a “ter­rific re­la­tion­ship” with Dublin Air­port, the gate­way is a vic­tim of its own suc­cess. “There are a num­ber of pain points al­ready in T2. One of which is around the US cus­toms. We be­lieve that can be sorted through more in­ten­sive se­cu­rity tech­nol­ogy to smooth peo­ple through. The other pain point, which also doesn’t af­fect Emi­rates, is that 6-7.30 win­dow in the morn­ing where the short-haul car­ri­ers need to get the first wave out on time.”

He ex­pressed surprise that the chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Dublin Air­port Author­ity (DAA), Dalton Philips, feels that Dublin can ac­com­mo­date al­most dou­ble its present num­ber of pas­sen­ger — ris­ing to 55 mil­lion a year — on just two ter­mi­nals, es­pe­cially with a new run­way planned.

“You only have to go to Dublin Air­port on a Satur­day in July or wait for your bag on De­cem­ber 23 to see what’s go­ing on. I’ve heard the 55 mil­lion fig­ure and it’s great, it’s a tes­ta­ment to the econ­omy and the coun­try — but it won’t be a pleas­ant ex­pe­ri­ence un­less the fa­cil­i­ties and in­fras­truc­ture are put in place.”

He be­lieves that a third ter­mi­nal — or even a bolt-on ex­ten­sion to T1 or T2 — should be run by the DAA, and added: “We’ve al­ways be­lieved that a third ter­mi­nal is a nat­u­ral con­se­quence of the second run­way. The chal­lenge for Emi­rates is that we’re op­er­at­ing in Ter­mi­nal 2 — we like it, be­lieve it’s ut­terly con­ducive to our prod­uct, our cus­tomers like it, but it’s a busy place and the third flight we were look­ing to bring in would have prob­a­bly run up against the busiest time, be­ing early morn­ing.”

And he said air­lines are al­ways im­pa­tient for progress and any talk of bring­ing the su­per-jumbo A380 into Dublin isn’t a run­ner for now: “We don’t tend to stand still — if some­thing is prof­itable we want to pile ca­pac­ity in, so the oft-asked ques­tion about the 380, that’s an in­fras­truc­ture is­sue into Dublin... we need a dou­ble air bridge to be able to han­dle it. That would re­move four cur­rent air bridges for six months — if your air­port is al­ready at peak you can see the is­sue.

“You don’t see it in Dubai where we have 65 gates for 380s. Some of those were built be­fore the air­craft ar­rived, so when the air­craft was de­liv­ered we were ready. In Euro­pean air­ports — you see it at Heathrow as well — you see that lag be­tween the in­fras­truc­ture keep­ing up pace with the air­lines’ wish to grow.”

But he says with in­fras­truc­ture you have to take the long view: “I stood be­side Michael O’leary at the open­ing of Ter­mi­nal 2 in 2010 and he was dressed in black in an un­der­taker’s out­fit and he had a card­board cof­fin. And em­bla­zoned on the out­side of the cof­fin was ‘Ter­mi­nal 2 — the death of Ir­ish tourism’. Now how funny is that now?”

For now, Ir­ish busi­ness pas­sen­gers just have the dou­ble-daily ser­vice, with Corneille in­sist­ing: “Avi­a­tion is not about van­ity, it’s not about how many planes we can op­er­ate a day. How many ex­am­ples are there of air­lines launch­ing a route in a fan­fare and clos­ing it with a whim­per? When we tend to open a route, the work that goes into it is in­tense and we don’t tend to can­cel routes.”

Emi­rates’ Boe­ing 777 busi­ness class on the Dublin-dubai route. In­set, Ireland boss Enda Corneille

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