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.

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