The Trick To Flying Higher
The aviation wisdom of Emirates’ Andrew Bunn
EMIRATES STARTED OUT SMALL but dreamed big. From connecting routes to developing countries that were long neglected by traditional carriers, it remained stubbornly ambitious, and these ambitions worried its rivals. Today, Emirates is booming and has just been named the best in the world at the Skytrax World Airline Awards in July. What has Emirates been up to lately? Andrew Bunn, country manager for Singapore, Brunei and Malaysia, shares its plans for global domination.
It’s intriguing how Emirates isn’t part of any global aviation alliances. What are the strategic reasons for this?
One of the basic tenets of our success has been the strength of our brand, being able to make our own decisions in terms of where we fly to, how we communicate, what we do with our brand, frequencies and not always negotiating with partners for this. We stand out in that respect.
For me, it’s a breath of fresh air. When you’re a part of an alliance, there is compromise, but we like to have control. So instead, we have strategic partnerships with various airlines. Basically, we feed on one another’s networks, which is important when you want to make sure your flights are performing as well as possible.
Are low-cost carriers a threat to Emirates?
No, absolutely not. I had this discussion 20 years ago. We’ll never get complacent. Whether it’s a low-cost or full-service carrier, we try to overcome such challenges to serve a global population. For instance, we have a strategic partnership with Jetstar. It’s a great low-cost carrier but a very good partner. There is room. You can either treat them as strategic partners or competition.
Emirates has benefited from the rise of Asia, and Singapore is a prime location between Europe and Asia. Could you shed light on what the carrier has done to capture the Asian-European market?
Growth, frequencies, connections and partnerships with airlines like Qantas bring us through to Singapore and link us to Australia, which is a huge market for us. Even Jetstar Airways and Malaysia Airlines connect us to parts of Southeast Asia we don’t fly to. We have also developed our hub in Singapore within a short span of time.
What we do is to feed the markets where we might not be able to fly our own aircraft into and then figure out the rest of the world. It’s not just about point-to-point, but the transiting traffic that goes through. In fact, we’re going to Myanmar and Hanoi this year. It’s a first for us. All our new destinations this year are going to be in Asia. That’s our way of future-proofing. It’s a big market.
What challenges will the aviation industry face in the next decade?
It’s a very resilient industry, but there will always be challenges. You have periods of economic downturns and global uncertainty. Through that all, travel increases. There are still new markets. The challenge lies in reaching them, and how we can meet demand and continue to be at the forefront. This won’t change in the next decade.
You want to have a great product and you want people to fly with you. Emirates is ahead of the game, so of course our challenge is to stay ahead. What we’ve got to do is to continue to reinvent, review what we do, and make sure we keep ahead. As an industry, we need to keep moving forward and treat the customer with a huge amount of respect. Expectations change all the time so you have to keep remodelling.